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Posts tagged ‘education’

Yes, Money Matters

As every teacher knows, the last thing students need is less education funding. Yet, as hard as it is to believe, the perception that education funding makes little or no difference in student success persists.

These are beliefs, says Bruce D. Baker, professor of education at Rutgers University in New Jersey, that are based on outdated and faulty research. Baker is the author of a report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) that confirms what educators know to be true — students benefit from more school funding.

“While money alone is not the answer to all educational ills,” Baker writes in the report, “more equitable and adequate allocation of financial inputs to schooling provides a necessary underlying condition for improving the equity and adequacy of outcomes.”

Read more.

Teachers spend $1.6 billion of their own money on back-to-school supplies

Some things never change: Teachers buying supplies out-of-pocket.school-supplies

How much do you spend on your students and classroom?

This year, educators are spending between $500 and $1,500 for their students and their classroom.

A study by the Education Market Association found that virtually all, 99.5 percent of teachers, spend their own money on instructional materials and classroom supplies for their students, including notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and other necessities. In total, public school teachers across the country spend an estimated $1.6 billion a year.

If parents are financially unable to provide the necessities or if students forget or lose their supplies, then teachers fill the gaps. The spending can be particularly heavy for teachers at lower-income schools, where students often show up for school without the most basic supplies, such as pens and paper.

Educators Provide Recommendations for Teacher Evaluation System

Is Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation system being implemented effectively? Should there be regional efforts to boost the system’s chances of success? And are there improvements that need to be made in the next session of the Connecticut General Assembly?

These are some of the questions being quietly studied by a small legislative subcommittee with a big reach. It’s called MORE Commission and it is charged with coming up with regional solutions to today’s pressing issues.

More’s Education subcommittee met this morning in Hartford. The working group heard how the evaluation system is progressing in school districts in Windsor and Litchfield, and what must be done to improve upon it, including allowing more flexibility, more training, and a greater focus on teaching and learning, not paperwork.

“It can’t be a gottcha system,” said Debra Wheeler, superintendent of Litchfield Public Schools. And it can’t be “a cookie cutter format,” Wheeler continued. “We need more flexibility than the Connecticut guidelines provide.”

Windsor teacher and CEA Professional Issues Coordinator Lisa Bress said the new evaluation system is an extremely time-consuming process, one that some educators feel distracts them from their ability to spend ample time with their students in the classroom. “We need to focus on improving teaching and learning rather than paperwork and compliance,” said Bress.

Subcommittee member Representative Chris Davis, agreed, “We want our teachers focusing on teaching and students not on documentation.”

“To make continuous improvements, we need to hear the voices of the teachers impacted by the plan, and take time without penalty to make necessary improvements and provide additional resources,” said Bress.

Training and evaluation

The state model requires a three-hour orientation process for teachers, but both Litchfield and Windsor provided additional training. Wheeler said her district spent a tremendous amount of time in the goal-setting process so teachers could understand what is expected of them and how they would be evaluated. She recommends districts “spend more than the allotted time helping teachers understand the process.”

Bress said her school district took extra steps during last year’s pilot program, including providing eight days of training, and other initiatives to make sure teachers felt trained and comfortable. Despite the district’s best efforts, implementation was still fraught with problems.

“We were being evaluated during a pilot period using a system that hadn’t fully been implemented or had the bugs worked out yet,” said Bress.  This year is better, according to Bress, but she feels bad for districts that didn’t participate in the pilot. “They are being evaluated while learning the system and that’s stressful and counterproductive. There should be a moratorium on punitive aspects of evaluation while teachers are given the opportunity to learn in a pilot year. That would be a benefit going forward.”

Bress said the new system lends itself to the TEAM or coaching model, and, in her district, she met with teachers on a weekly basis to collaborate and discuss differentiated instruction and how to meet goals and provide professional development that will help teachers improve their practice.

Bress and others suggested a regional pool of available complementary evaluators that districts could tap into to reduce the burden on districts and principals. Bress said there’s a big difference between a coach and an evaluator, and she doesn’t believe in having colleagues be complementary evaluators. Instead, she suggested using retired teachers or other qualified and trained evaluators.

The subcommittee will consider today’s recommendations and will create a list of education issues it will present to the legislature next year.

Perspectives on Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: Stratford Teacher Gives Students Tools to Face Life’s Challenges

Connecticut’s 2011 Teacher of the Year Kristen Record says that the achievement gap is her reality every day.

“I live the achievement gap. It’s my reality, every day.”

That’s what Kristen Record, Connecticut’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, told a crowd of 100 people at the Hartford Public Library today, where she was one of the keynote speakers at the CT Mirror Forum “Perspectives on Connecticut’s Achievement Gap.”

Record, who teaches physics at Bunnell High School in Stratford, says she doesn’t only teach “good students, but all levels of students—from students from affluent two-parent households to students from homes with single parents who work two jobs to make ends meet.”

Stratford is diverse and teaching is challenging

“I’m not perfect, but I do my best and make a difference in the lives of my students,” she says.

But there are many aspects of students’ lives that impact their learning that she and other teachers just can’t control, including absenteeism.

“Anyone who tells you that a student’s grade is an indication of the effectiveness of a teacher does not understand the complex realities of public education,” says Record.

Watch an excerpt of Record’s speech.

She says teachers understand the work they do is important and that it can have a profound effect on children’s lives.

“I know I make a difference, and it’s a difference that matters,” says Record. “A lot of teachers in Stratford make this same kind of difference.”

Record points to several programs that are helping to close the achievement gap in Stratford, including two CEA and Stratford partnership programs: Power Hour and Real Dads Forever. Both programs are geared toward getting parents more involved in their children’s education.

“Parents play a crucial role in closing the achievement gap and initiatives like Power Hour and Real Dads Forever, help to foster collaboration between schools and families,” says Record.

The physics teacher believes students learn from their relationships, and that the relationship between a student and teacher must go beyond the content of the classroom lesson of the day.

“No matter where kids come from, they want to be successful at something.  Our role as teachers is to help them figure out what that something is,” says Record.

Teacher Morale Through the Roof: Exciting Progress in Bridgeport

From right, Bridgeport Education Association President Gary Peluchette, CEA President Sheila Cohen, and CEA Vice President Jeff Leake listen to Curiale teacher Katie McLeod explain an exciting plan to boost student achievement at the school.

Governor Malloy is all ears as he learns about plans and early progress being made in schools that are part of the new Commissioner’s Network — a key program enacted when the governor signed Public Act 12-116, Connecticut’s sweeping education reform law.

Today the governor was at Curiale School in Bridgeport. “This is a check-in. Are we moving toward improvement? Are we making progress?” The governor was speaking in the school’s library with key stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, and board of education members.

At the meeting, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor credited the Bridgeport Education Association (BEA) and CEA with being “incredibly creative and flexible” about spawning innovation at the school.

One of those innovations was developing new teacher schedules to provide students with a longer instructional day and an extended day schedule. The extended day complements the strong academic program by offering dance, music, and art classes, as well as sports and recreation opportunities for students and families.

Curiale teacher Katie McLeod served on the committee that developed a “turnaround plan” for the school.

McLeod says, “We are all excited about the after-school enrichment programs and our new administrators. Teachers’ morale is through the roof, and student attendance is way up.”

With a new curriculum and more teacher professional development, enthusiasm about improvement is palpable at Curiale.

Governor Malloy talks to Curiale Students Kwajana Gooden (left) and Nayelis Perez.

In Christine Nogueira’s fourth-grade class, Governor Malloy chatted with students Kwajana Gooden and Nayelis Perez.

Perez said she likes the longer days. “They are designed to help you,” Governor Malloy told the girls.

Beyond the extended day and after-school program, other elements of Curiale’s turnaround plan include the following.

  • A rigorous kindergarten through grade three literacy initiative.
  • Smaller class sizes.
  • Leveled flexible groups for reading and math so students receive appropriate instruction.
  • A new curriculum in all core subjects.
  • The formation of Instructional Learning Teams to lead and facilitate schoolwide implementation of lesson studies and professional development.
  • Common planning time for teachers each week.
  • A program of Schoolwide Enrichment that will identify the strengths and talents of all students and create classes and programs to develop these talents.

UConn’s Neag School of Education is working with Curiale to develop and implement the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Neag will offer professional development to train teachers and staff to identify students’ areas of strength and develop strategies to address them and link them to students’ areas of need. Research shows this model engages students in learning and makes them eager to participate in school programs and activities.

Governor Malloy said today that an extra $4.5 million are being allocated to the Bridgeport School District this year.

At Curiale and other schools, the hope is that extra resources and hard work will have everyone talking about “substantial change, not marginal change,” according to the governor.

McLeod explained that the extra instructional time has provided enrichment opportunities enabling teachers to go back and teach fun things that excite students, such as a unit on Pioneer Days.

Jennifer Kelemen, a teacher at Madison School, and Gregory Furlong, a teacher at Bryant School, also serve on the Curiale Turnaround Committee.

BEA President Gary Peluchette said, “Along with Katie McLeod, they are exemplary educators who have shown how much teachers can and want to be part of the solution. They are dedicated to their students, their profession, and their community.”

Kelemen said she hopes Curiale can be a model for other schools because extracurricular opportunities, from sports to the arts, really motivate kids. Furlong pointed out that wraparound services for students and families are also an enormous plus.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said that collaboration that includes all education stakeholders is a key element. “We are pleased that school reform efforts are putting a focus on families and community — essential ingredients for student success,” said Cohen.

State Funding of Local Public Schools: Change Shaping Up

The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Task Force yesterday reviewed a set of objectives that it will use to select a final formula or formulas to recommend to the legislature. The task force’s Formula Subcommittee, which has been reviewing possible formulas, said it will have formulas for the entire task force to review at its next meeting, October 30.

Some of the key objectives the task force agreed to include the following.

  • Student performance measures should be incorporated in the ECS formula to ensure resources are available to properly support underperforming students.
  • The ECS formula must strive to direct state money inversely to a district’s capacity to pay for education.
  • The state should strive to fully fund the new or amended ECS formula within four years.
  • A part of the grant for underperforming districts should be contingent upon the State Department of Education approving districts’ plans to improve their performance.
  • ECS grants should be predictable.
  • Property value and income should be balanced in determining town wealth, and a three-year average of data should be used whenever possible.
  • A foundation rate should be derived through a strong and transparent rationale — including the elimination of minimum aid funding levels over a phase-down period.

In recommending that a new or amended ECS formula should be fully funded within four years, the Formula Subcommittee Chair Len Miller,  co-founder of the Fairfield County Collaborative Alliance, recognized that the state’s education funding will be constrained by its ability to generate revenue. “We’re trying to look at financial reality,” he said. “We don’t want this to just be an exercise. We want it to be as difficult as possible for the formula not to be fully funded – we don’t want waivers and suspensions.”

State Senator Toni Harp, co-chair of the legislature’s appropriations committee, agreed, saying “It only makes sense to look at funding a new formula in light of what we have available to spend.”

Ted Sergi, former state commissioner of education, said, “The more the state contributes to the whole education funding pie, the less unequal opportunities we’ll have. I’m not a fan of adopting a four billion dollar formula if we’ll never reach it.”

The Special Education Subcommittee also submitted a report to the task force that calls for the state to develop a new process for reimbursing school districts for excess special education costs. This recommendation would shift responsibility for high-cost special education students from the districts to the state, and create a sliding scale reimbursement based on a town’s wealth.

The task force plans to compile the subcommittee reports into a final report by the end of November.

Four New Honorees Inducted into Southington High School’s Wall of Honor

Southington Wall of Fame

Four more outstanding graduates joined the Southington Wall of Honor Tuesday. Standing under the wall are, from left; Bob Brown, Wall of Honor Committee chairman;  Mary Jane Mongillo-Williams, a critical care nurse advocate and educator; Kathy Reinhard, daughter of the late Kay and Joe Calvanese; Jim Pratt, brother of Army Specialist Dennis Pratt.

“It’s called the Southington High School Wall of Honor, and it includes an incredible list of people who grew up in our town, graduated from our schools, and went on to do amazing things,” says Bob Brown, a Southington High School social studies teacher and Wall of Honor Committee chairman.

More than 50 friends, family members, educators, and community leaders attended the 2012 Wall of Honor ceremony Tuesday to honor present and late members of the Southington community for their accomplishments.

“This year’s four inductees had varied high school experiences and pursued diverse careers after graduation, but all made substantial contributions—one even making the ultimate sacrifice—either locally or to the world at large,” says Brown.

The 2012 honorees are:

  •  Army Specialist Dennis J. Pratt, killed in the line of duty during Operation Enduring Freedom
  • Kay and Joe Calvanese, the late founders of the Aqua Turf Restaurant
  • Mary Jane Mongillo-Williams, a critical care nurse advocate and educator

The Pratt and Calvanese families accepted the awards on behalf of their relatives.
Jim Pratt says this is a special gift for his brother Dennis, who died fighting for his country. “I’m very proud of him, and I’m glad that his life has made an impact on other people.”
“It’s a great honor for our parents,” says Kathy Reinhard, daughter of the late Kay and Joe Calvanese. “My parents were quiet givers and gave of themselves, their time, and energy, and they enjoyed what they did for their community.” In that spirit, the family created the Joe and Kay Calvanese Foundation, which has donated more than $100,000 over the past 10 years to more than 137 charities in Southington.

Southington Wall of Honor Committee Chairman Bob Brown address over fifty friends, family members, educators, and community leaders at the ceremony Tuesday.

Mongillo-Williams attributed her success to a community that supports education. “Education is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and give to our children,” she says. Her children both graduated from Southington High, and she appreciates the quality education they received. “Caring teachers like Bob Brown taught them valuable lessons and introduced them to wonderful experiences that shaped them throughout their lives,” she says.

Brown started the Wall of Honor in 2007, and currently has inducted 26 members. Honorees receive a plaque on the Wall of Honor, located between the school’s auditorium and gymnasium, serving as an inspiration to the students of Southington High School.

“This wall is a testament to Southington High School, and says something about our community that so many accomplished people came out of it,” said Brown.

Southington High School Principal Martin Semmel says the Wall of Honor “gives our students something to strive for and to know that no matter what route they take in life, they can accomplish great things.”

2013 Teacher of the Year Says Teaching Is All About the Connection

Blaise Messinger, a fifth-grade teacher at Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, was named Connecticut’s 2013 Teacher of the Year this morning.

Passionate.  That’s the word fellow teachers use to describe Blaise Messinger, a fifth-grade teacher at Cromwell’s Woodside Intermediate School and Connecticut’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Educators, family, friends, and students gathered for a ceremony at the school today, where State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor introduced the state’s newest teacher of the year.

“We are here to celebrate a great teacher, and Connecticut’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, Blaise Messinger,” said Pryor.

Messinger, a former actor, began his teaching career in Los Angeles in 1998, after seeing the impact excellent teaching had on his son Ethan, who has autism.

“I realized what an excellent teacher can do, not just for the students, but for the families,” said Messinger. “I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be able to make a difference in the life of a child and that child’s family.”

He’s been teaching for 14 years, eight of them in Cromwell.

Messinger believes that “good teaching is not about data, test scores, or teacher evaluation schemes, but about connecting with the students and making learning fun.”

“All children are aching to learn,” he said. “I believe that the key to unlocking the joy and wonder inherent in all students comes down to the relationship between me and that student, and the environment created in the classroom to nurture that bond.”

His students agree. Five girls who were in Messinger’s fifth-grade class last year, and who participated in his nomination for Teacher of the Year, spoke at today’s ceremony.

“He made learning fun, and made us excited to go to school every day,” said Gabi Gentile.

Julia Lemmon said he brought acting into the classroom. “He’s the teacher of every kid’s dreams,” she said. “He wasn’t just a role model for me, he was an inspiration—my favorite teacher—and I’m never going to let him go.”

Messinger wants to celebrate all that’s right in teaching today.

“Teaching is a team sport, and while I’m thrilled to be the most valuable player on the team, it’s what the team accomplishes that’s most important. I am very grateful that every day I get to do a job that I love.”

Messinger succeeds 2012 Teacher of the Year David Bosso, a social studies teacher in Berlin, whose term concludes at the end of the year.

Obama and Romney on Education

During last night’s first presidential debate President Obama and Governor Romney mentioned education 20 times. Here’s some of what they had to say.

President Obama

I want to hire another hundred thousand new math and science teachers and create two million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now. And I want to make sure that we keep tuition low for our young people.

We’ve seen layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers over the last several years, and Governor Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do, because I think that that is the kind of investment where the federal government can help. It can’t do it all, but it can make a difference, and as a consequence, we’ll have a better-trained workforce, and that will create jobs, because companies want to locate in places where we’ve got a skilled workforce.

Governor Romney

I happen to believe — I want the kids that are getting federal dollars from IDEA or — or Title I — these are disabled kids or — or poor kids or — or lower-income kids, rather. I want them to be able to go to the school of their choice. So all federal funds, instead of going to the — to the state or to the school district, I’d have go — if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide where to send their — their — their student.

….

How do we get schools to be more competitive? Let’s grade them. I propose we grade our schools so parents know which schools are succeeding and failing, so they can take their child to a — to a school that’s being more successful. I don’t — I don’t want to cut our commitment to education; I wanted to make it more effective and efficient.

Read the complete transcript of last night’s presidential debate here. Watch the entire debate here.

NEA Endorses Obama

In the presidential election, President Obama and challenger Governor Romney have starkly different views on many issues, including education. Visit EducationVotes.org, for a comparison of where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to America’s educators.

CEA Endorses State and National Candidates

CEA has endorsed candidates who support and advocate on behalf of students and teachers. Read about the endorsement process, and review the endorsed candidates for the State House of Representatives, State Senate, and U.S. Congress on CEA’s website.