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Posts tagged ‘connecticut education’

Raise Property Taxes? Coalition, Voters Say ‘No’

CEA President Sheila Cohen called the cost-shift plan “devastating” at a press conference today.

Speaking out at a town hall press conference in West Hartford—which faces historic property tax hikes to cover a major shortfall in state funding—a statewide coalition of eight diverse associations, including CEA, called on legislators to avoid shifting the state’s financial obligations onto cities and towns.

Policymakers are currently considering plans to shift $408 million in state costs for teacher retirement plans onto cities and towns, whose property tax rates are already among the highest in the country.

CEA President Sheila Cohen called the cost-shift plan “devastating,” saying it would “wreak havoc on cities and towns, jeopardize much-needed resources and services, and cut critical funding so desperately needed by our students.” Read more

High School Assessment Working Group Votes Unanimously to Eliminate SBAC for 11th Graders

Members of the High School Assessment Working Group heard from SAT and ACT representatives at a meeting in December.

Members of the High School Assessment Working Group heard from SAT and ACT representatives at a meeting in December.

Connecticut’s High School Assessment Working Group late yesterday afternoon voted unanimously to eliminate the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, and restore precious teaching and learning time for students.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, who represents the Association on the working group said, “This is a positive step forward. It will restore much needed instructional time to engage, energize, and excite our students and reveal new possibilities and opportunities. The unanimous vote by stakeholders reduces the number of high-stakes standardized tests students are required to take while still meeting the standards established for our students in 11th grade.”

In addition to SBAC, many high school juniors take a considerable number of tests in a short amount of time, including the SATs and AP exams, and wonder what the value is in having to take the SBAC, too.

The working group will make its recommendation to the governor and legislature to eliminate SBAC and replace it with a nationally recognized college readiness assessment that students are already taking, such as the SAT or the ACT. The recommendation will also outline the need for the new assessment to be adequately funded, in compliance with federal law, and provide accommodations for students with special needs.

“This option allows us to examine the best assessment for all students in the state,” said Waxenberg.

The group plans to work through the summer to decide upon the best assessment to replace SBAC.

Education: A focal point in first gubernatorial debate

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Tom Foley spent more than 15 minutes talking about education in their first gubernatorial debate last night at the Norwich Free Academy.

When asked about his tenure comment, Malloy apologized to teachers: “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

Watch the debate on CT-N at http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10625

The education discussion begins almost 24 minutes into the video.debate pic

Malloy’s apology is nearly 31 minutes into the video.

Here’s a sampling of the media coverage of the debate:

CT Mirror
http://ctmirror.org/in-first-debate-malloy-apologizes-to-teachers-needles-foley/

The Day
http://theday.com/article/20140827/NWS12/140829707/1017

CT News Junkie
http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_turns_focus_to_foleys_business_record_during_first_debate/

The Hartford Courant
http://www.courant.com/community/norwich/hc-ct-governors-race-debate-foley-malloy-0828-20140827,0,7507329.story

The New Haven Register
http://www.nhregister.com/government-and-politics/20140827/pointed-exchanges-mark-first-debate-for-gov-dannel-malloy-tom-foley

The Bulletin
http://www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20140827/NEWS/140829575/?Start=1

The Connecticut Post
http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Malloy-Foley-trade-opening-debate-barbs-5717264.php

First Three Alliance District Plans to Be Approved This Week

The first three plans from Alliance Districts will be approved this week, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor told the State Board of Education this morning. All 30 Alliance Districts, the lowest performing school districts in the state, have submitted plans to the State Department of Education (SDE). Windsor Locks, Naugatuck, and Ansonia will be the first to be approved by the SDE this week, according to Pryor.

The education reform bill that became Public Act 12-116 allotted $39.5 million in Education Cost Sharing funding to the Alliance Districts. To receive any increase in state funding over the amount the district received for the prior fiscal year, these districts are required to apply to the SDE with a plan meeting criteria and conditions set forth by the Public Act and the SDE. Districts are required to provide funds to match the state money received for their plans. Once the state approves the plans they must be submitted to the local board of education for approval.

Two of the three Alliance Districts receiving approval this week , Windsor Locks and Naugatuck, are CEA local affiliates.

Windsor Locks will receive $252,000 exclusively for the purpose of extending learning time for students by 200 hours per year. The district will use a staggered staffing model to allow for this extra time, and has negotiated the new schedule with the Windsor Locks Teachers’ Association.

Naugatuck will receive $635,149 to expand an extended day and a summer program for at-risk students, strengthen the common core curriculum, focus on a talent strategy to include an administrator internship program, and develop a counselor program that will free principals from some administrative responsibilities, allowing more time for instructional leadership.

Ansonia will receive $539,715 to focus on a small number of priority initiatives including a talent development program, an extended year for Ansonia High School, a new freshman academy initiative, and a K-3 literacy initiative.

Alliance Districts were required to submit plans by August 15 and all complied, Pryor said. The SDE has been reviewing the plans and has been, and will continue to be, in dialog with the districts as their plans are revised and eventually approved. Pryor said that the SDE has asked districts to consult with all education stakeholders, including teachers and parents, as they develop and revise their plans.

The commissioner expressed confidence that the majority of plans would be approved by the end of September, and the remainder would be approved in October.

A Valid Alternative to Senate Bill 24

CEA continues to encourage people to read the teachers’ reform plan, A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement, developed by a cross-section of teachers with expertise in the classroom. It’s a commonsense, research-based alternative to the governor’s proposed bill, with proven ideas that work.

CEA and its members know that Connecticut needs to reform its statutory dismissal process,  including the mistaken notion that tenure means a “job for life.” It is as misunderstood as it is outdated.

It is time to end teacher tenure as we know it, while ensuring jobs are not threatened for petty personal or political reasons that have nothing to do with classroom effectiveness. It is time for Connecticut to reform the dismissal process so that it is speedy, more cost-effective, and fair.

The plan calls for

  • Shortening, by a third, the time it takes to carry out the dismissal process by reducing the statutory timeline from 120 days to 85 days and make other changes that could reduce the timeline even further.
  • Reducing the hearing cost by requiring one arbitrator versus the current system that allows up to three arbitrators, each billing for multiple daily charges.
  • Protecting against unfair firings by providing a speedy hearing in front of a single neutral third party.

Teachers ideas are in sharp contrast to positions being advanced by some other groups. Watch a clip from a news conference yesterday below.

You can find a list of members of the legislature’s education committee here. If your legislator is a member of the education committee, call or send an email and let him/her know what will really work to improve the quality of our public schools.

Still Time to Sign Up for a Reforum

Veteran Guilford teacher Pete Cuticelli (left) proved himself to be a strong mentor in teacher advocacy when he encouraged his colleague third-year teacher Burt Vitale to join him at a reforum.

CEA members are packing hotel conference rooms across the state as they participate in reforums that give them opportunities to learn, talk, and plan for their legislative advocacy roles in the “Year of Education.” There are four more reforums scheduled for this week and next, so if you haven’t attended one yet, sign up now.

Veteran Guilford teacher Pete Cuticelli, a building representative, encouraged his colleague, Burt Vitale, a third-year teacher, to join him at the Middletown Reforum yesterday.  Vitale said, “It’s important that young people get involved with the issues if they want to stay in the teaching profession.”

East Haddam teacher Susan DeBisschop (right) and Old Saybrook teacher Margaret Samela review the reforms outlined in the CEA plan, "A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement", as they shared ideas at the reforum held in Middletown.

Cuticelli said he’s impressed that CEA’s been “proactive” with its reform agenda.  Susan DeBisschop, an East Haddam teacher, said her intent is to carry a “positive message forward.”

In total, CEA is hosting eleven reforums for teachers to hear an overview from CEA staff on statewide issues, participate in discussions, and carve out strategies for keeping their views percolating on the legislative front burner.

“Sure, I will continue to to email, call, and reach out to my legislators,” said Margaret Samela, an Old Saybrook teacher.  “I don’t think teachers get the respect they deserve.  CEA’s book, A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement, is a positive step.  It’s a way for us to come together as a collaborative voice and share our concerns about where our profession should be headed.”

Two Bridgeport teachers saw the reforum as such a vital opportunity that they are considering attending two of the gatherings.  Daniel Kwet and Jason Poppa say they have many concerns.  Just one was succinctly expressed by Kwet this way, “It’s just drill and kill at Harding High School where I teach.  The curriculum has been so narrowed.”

CEA Statement on Governor Malloy’s Principles for Education Reform

Governor Malloy sent a letter today to leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly outlining his principles for education reform. According to his press release, the “principles will serve as a ‘roadmap’ for the upcoming 2012 session of the General Assembly, a session in which the Governor has repeatedly said he will focus on education.”

CEA’s executive director issued the following statement.

Statement from CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine

We commend the governor for his leadership on advancing high-quality public schools.  In their collaborative outreach to CEA in recent months, both Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor have indicated they recognize that high-quality teachers are the greatest asset in public education.

Teachers want to use their experience in the classroom to help the governor enact changes that will improve education for the students of our state, so we look forward to working with the governor and the commissioner on these issues.

We could not agree more with the governor that our state’s economic future is dependent on our students’ educational outcomes.  As CEA has repeatedly indicated: We live in a knowledge-based global economy, and generations of citizens—young and old—depend on our students being able to compete in a global economy.

American Education Week – Celebrating 89 Years

NEA’s American Education Week (AEW) spotlights the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education from kindergarten through college, and the need for everyone to do his or her part in making public schools great.

The tagline, Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility, reflects the call to America to provide students with quality public schools so that they can grow, prosper, and achieve in the 21st century.

The Importance of Parents’ Place in Schools
Different aspects of school life are spotlighted throughout the week, including parents.  Schools across the nation invite parents into the classroom to experience firsthand what a school day is like for their child. The initiative is designed to spotlight the importance of parental involvement.

Ongoing research shows that parental involvement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education.  For information on parental involvement, see NEA’s Parent Resources.

In the video below, NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen gives parents advice on how to prepare for their parent-teacher conference (last video on page).

Lilly Eskelsen on Parents Day

Watch more American Education Week videos from NEA here.

Download NEA’s American Education Week Artwork and Web Banners
The 2010 AEW artwork, including a poster in various sizes and Web banners, are available for downloading.

Use the NEA Toolkit to Plan Your American Education Week Event
Use the online tools to plan your celebration.
The materials presented here reflect NEA’s mission as an advocate for the nation’s public schools, school employees, and the communities they serve.

Other organizations are free to use this material or create their own. If you use this material (art, theme, articles, resources), please credit NEA as the creator of content.

What are you doing to celebrate American Education Week?  Let us know by leaving a comment.

The Condition of Education: Different Perspectives

How students perform on standardized tests should not be the sole basis for teacher evaluation, tenure is simply due process and charter schools are not a panacea.

That’s what Lily Eskelsen, the vice president of the nation’s largest teachers union, told a packed house of 2,800 on Nov. 11 at a panel discussion on education at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.

“Maybe 1980 was the golden age and I didn’t know it,” she said. She described how, as a teacher in Utah, her grade school students weren’t thrilled with the standard reading textbooks provided by her school district’s central office, so she replaced them with books such as Old Yeller, and Black Stallion.

“My principal and the parents supported me. Now it’s all built around standardized tests in the spring,” she said. “That’s what’s killing the joy in the classroom. My teachers want to teach, to open minds to infinite possibility but all administrators and policymakers want to see is test scores.”

Joining NEA’s Eskelsen on the panel were Joel Klein, the outgoing chancellor of the New York City public schools; Davis Guggenheim, director of the charter-school-lauding documentary, Waiting for Superman; Deborah Gist, the Rhode Island commissioner of education; and Jon Schnur, CEO of New Leaders for Public Schools. The moderator of the Connecticut Forum discussion of Our Great Education Challenge was Nora O’Donnell, chief Washington correspondent for MSNBC.

Not all of the panelists agreed with Eskelsen, the lone union leader.  But Eskelsen more than held her own.

After she described how a caring teacher can perform a number of tasks to bring out the best in a student, Gist asked, “Can’t a great teacher do both, care and achieve?”

“Achievement has to be more than standardized test scores,” Eskelsen replied.

Klein agreed and suggested the NEA “come up with something.”

Schnur said, “Tests should not be the only measure. In many communities agreements are being made on how to assess teachers.”

During the second half of the program, the panelists answered questions from the audience. One audience member asked, “Why not get rid of tenure for teachers?”

Guggenheim insisted tenure protects a lot of bad teachers.

Eskelsen cited a number of past examples before tenure where teachers were replaced because of local politics, religion, gender, or let go so a principal could give the job to a friend.

“Tenure protects good teachers from being treated unfairly,” she said.

Klein said, “The system is broken. It works for adults, not children. We reward length of service but not excellence.”

“I don’t have tenure,” O’Donnell said.

Schnur said the tenure system needs to be modernized.

“We have to create a teaching profession that is the profession to be in,” he said. “We need higher standards. That’s how other countries do it.”

One such country is Finland, Eskelsen said, and their teachers are unionized.

O’Donnell broke in and asked, “Do they have tenure?”

“They have tenure,” Eskelsen replied. She went on to say that Finnish educators recruit the top students from universities and put them through a rigorous graduate school process, perhaps tougher than law or medical school.

“You must have a master’s degree in your specialty area in Finland’s schools,” Eskelsen said. “That is the opposite of Teach for America, where you are allowed to teach before you are prepared.”

An argument then ensued about the merits of the Teach for America program.

The night’s discussion began about the state of education in the United States today.

Schnur did not paint a pretty picture.

“Forty years ago U.S. public schools were No. 1 in performance and now are about 10th,” he said. “We have not gotten worse [since dropping to 10th] but we have not gotten better,”  he said. “While we have stagnated, other countries have moved ahead. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the country.” The achievement gap refers to the gap between low-income and non-low-income students’ test scores.

Klein claimed the current system impeded the progress he tried to make in New York City schools.

“I need math and science teachers,” he said. “I want to pay them more but am not allowed to under the current system.” He said he wants to do the same with principals but cannot and would like to hire principals who are not educators.

Guggenheim said he visited Harlem while making his film and, in referring to a charter school there, said that Klein worked miracles.

Eskelsen said that she disagreed with the premise that charter schools are the only answer. Though the union supports charter schools, she said only 17 percent of them are outperforming public schools.

One of the innovative approaches being used in Connecticut is the CommPACT school model, in which decisions about each school are made from the bottom up, giving a new voice to students, parents, and teachers. Everyone is empowered and work together, along with community leaders, to make existing public schools with unionized teachers improve.

The teachers are assisted by experts from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. There are CommPACT schools in Waterbury, Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford.

Eskelsen recently visited a CommPACT school in Waterbury, West Side Middle School, which she called “a little miracle.”

She said she was impressed by the positive attitudes of the teachers, parents, and students as she walked through the school and asked a teacher what made it this way. She was told that the teachers were asked for their opinions on how to improve the school and that excited them.

“How do we transform that school that is unacceptable?” Eskelsen asked. “Not by opening a few seats in a charter school.”

On the role of parents, Eskelsen said, “Parents are the most important factor in a kid’s life. When you put a caring parent and a competent teacher together, you rock.”

Parents should care, be honest and act, Klein said. Looking out at the audience, he said, “If  the people don’t insist that every school is a school I would send my kid to, things won’t change.”

After the forum ended and the audience was filing out into the street, two older women discussed what they had heard or not heard that night.

“No one mentioned money,” one said.

Her friend answered, “That’s the gorilla in the room.”

Read more about the CT Forum’s Our Great Education Challenge from the Hartford Courant.

If you attended the forum, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

Gubernatorial Candidates on Education

Newspapers are reporting that — at a forum on public education — Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, indicated he would abolish teacher tenure, eliminate binding arbitration, overhaul state pensions, and support merit pay.

The gubernatorial candidates met in Middletown last night for  a debate sponsored by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.  The event was moderated by Robert Frahm of the Connecticut Mirror and Tom Monahan of NBC 30.

Read more from:
The Hartford Courant
The Middletown Press

You can also watch the complete debate by clicking here.