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Timeline for Foundations of Reading Survey Delayed

A message from CEA President Sheila Cohen regarding the Foundations of Reading Survey.

I am forwarding to you a memo from the State Department of Education that was sent to all Superintendents.

There have been numerous and different concerns raised regarding the Foundations of Reading Survey, concerns that include its administration, how the results will be reported, to whom the results will be reported, where the results will be stored, and how the results will be used in driving professional development and student instruction.

For now, the timeline has been pushed back until late fall. We will keep you informed as developments occur.

Thank You for all you do every single day!!


From: Nemr, Georgette []
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2014 4:28 PM
To: Reading Survey
Cc: Barzee, Sarah; Pugliese, Nancy
Subject: Reading Survey UPDATE
Importance: High

Dear Reading Survey Liaisons:

Due to questions that have arisen about the implementation of the Reading Survey, the survey administration window dates have been delayed until late fall. We will continue to communicate updates about the status of the survey as soon as we reach a decision about the new administration dates.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please forward them to our dedicated email address

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and your teachers in the scheduling of the reading survey administration for the fall. Thank you for your assistance and patience.

Georgette Nemr
Bureau of Educator Standards & Certification Connecticut State Department of Education

Welcome Back!

A message to teachers from CEA President Sheila Cohen

I extend my warmest wishes to you and welcome you back to a school year filled with hope and opportunity, a school year in which the demands placed upon you are determined through reasonable and collaborative flexibility, and that the professional development you are provided is meaningful and has had your representative input.

You are dedicated, caring, and talented individuals, working long hours teaching and caring for children with diverse needs. You wear so many hats—teacher, friend, social worker, caregiver, counselor, and so much more. You ensure that your students have the tools they need to succeed both inside the classroom and out. Your job is extremely important. Your dedication and commitment matter. You make a difference. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for being a teacher.

NEA Members Improve Student Success, Strengthen Education

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed nearly 9,000 delegates at the NEA RA last week, thanking them for their support

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed the nearly 9,000 delegates at the NEA RA last week, thanking them for their support in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Nearly 9,000 educators from around the country have made their combined voices heard on behalf of students and public education. NEA members came together for the 151st Annual Meeting and 92nd Representative Assembly (RA) in Atlanta, Georgia, and gave their thoughtful consideration during 12-hour days to 93 new business items, and numerous constitutional bylaws and resolutions.

Delegates approved a $3 annual dues increase that will, in part, go toward providing $6 million in grants to NEA state and local affiliates. The grants, a piece of NEA’s new Raise Your Hand campaign, will support innovative projects and best practices to boost student learning.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told delegates, “Our country has no shortage of people with ideas about how schools need to change. It seems that anyone can call themselves an ‘education reformer’—no experience necessary. If we are going to take charge of our own professions, we must move beyond the old debate that has been defined by others. It is time for us to transform public education by taking charge of our own profession.”

NEA Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle told fellow educators, “Raise your hand if you’re tired of others thinking they know what’s best for our students. It is time to reclaim our profession, our schools, and public education.”

Moments that claimed the spotlight at this year’s RA included the heroism of two Michigan delegates who helped to save the life of a man who fell onto subway tracks during rush hour, and a celebration of Kathleen Roberts, a 98-year-old Massachusetts delegate who has been attending NEA’s Representative Assembly since 1950.

Delegates also took time out to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. CEA President Sheila Cohen thanked the thousands of  teachers on behalf of all Connecticut educators.

“Thank you from our very depths for your immediate offers to help and your immediate sentiments of hope, for your emotional outpouring of sympathy and for your generous outpouring of financial support,” she said. “Thank you for your snowflakes, for your crisis and grief management teams, for your lit candles, and for your teddy bears.”

On Saturday, CEA delegates were very moved to find handwritten notes on their seats from members of the Texas delegation in recognition of the Newtown tragedy. Delegates from around the country showed their caring and generosity with contributions to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund.

All gifts to the Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund will go toward scholarships at the University of Connecticut and the creation of a bronze sculpture memorializing the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Read more about the Fund here.

Teachers from Around the State Gather to Decide CEA Policy

CEA President Sheila Cohen convened the 2013 CEA RA tonight in Cromwell.

CEA President Sheila Cohen convened the 2013 CEA RA tonight
in Cromwell.

Nearly 400 CEA members are gathered this weekend for the CEA Representative Assembly (RA), which is underway tonight in Cromwell.  The CEA RA is CEA’s highest policy-making body. Today and tomorrow delegates – elected from CEA’s more than 160 local affiliates – are taking action to decide Association policies.

Some highlights from tonight include a speech by 2013 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Blaise Messinger, the presentation of the CEA Friend of Education Award to long-time, recently retired CEA attorney Ron Cordilico, and a look back at the Bridgeport teachers’ strike. CEA President Sheila Cohen thanked the dedicated Bridgeport educators whose actions helped bring about Connecticut’s binding arbitration law.

Stay tuned Monday for full details from the CEA RA.

New Teachers Learn Strategies for Success

CEA President Sheila Cohen addresses the 700+ beginning educators who came together last weekend for CEA's New Teacher Conference.

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed the over 400 beginning educators who came together last weekend for the CEA New Teacher Conference.

More than 400 teachers with one to six years of classroom experience attended the CEA New Teacher Conference at the Mohegan Sun Conference Center on April 6 to get training to help them be the best teachers possible and improve student performance.

CEA President Sheila Cohen welcomed the teachers to the conference and reminded them of the importance of their profession.

“There are those who want to make the P in public schools stand for something else. They are self-proclaimed prophets who want to make profits and privatize our public schools. But we know that the P in public stands for professionals,” she told the educators. “We must reinforce that we are professionals, and that we became teachers to make a difference in the lives of our students.”

Cohen said CEA has always been considered a labor union and a professional association. And in order to facilitate change, we are also a political organization. “We are always advocating on your behalf, protecting your rights and those of your students. Because so much of what we do as teachers is dictated by state mandates we must also be a political organization and share our knowledge and experience with legislators. Policy affecting public education should be made with teachers, not without them,” she said.

New Teacher Conference attendees listen to keynote speaker

New Teacher Conference attendees listened to keynote speaker Dr. Joe Martin who shared his personal story of how teachers changed his life.

CEA is raising public awareness of teachers as professionals in a new CEA TV Ad. Cohen said the teachers in the ad are professionals who devote their lives to helping students learn and grow.

The theme of professionalism was echoed by keynote speaker Dr. Joe Martin. The lifelong educator, author, and motivational speaker ignited the audience with his passion for the teaching profession by sharing his own personal experiences growing up in one of the toughest crime-ridden, drug-infested ghettos in Miami. He spoke about how teachers changed his life and can change the lives of the students in their classrooms.

Martin discussed how to motivate any student, regardless of his or her aptitude. “Instead of telling students directly what to do, we need to offer them assistance and ask, ‘How can I help you?’”

Martin said teachers can become complacent after surviving the first few years of teaching and are at risk of getting into a comfortable teaching rut that stunts their professional growth and development.

Sometimes teachers don’t even know how much of a difference they are making in students’ lives. “Even on their worst days, teachers can be a ray of hope for students and brighten their day,” he said.

Matthew Brunetti, a fourth-grade teacher at Uncas Elementary School in Norwich, agreed. “He was inspirational and got me thinking about more ways to motivate and help my students.”

CEA UniServ Representative Joe Zawawi led one of the x sessions at the New Teacher Conference.

CEA UniServ Representative Joe Zawawi presented one of the nearly two dozen workshops on a wide range of issues at the New Teacher Conference.

Session learning

The conference featured nearly two dozen workshops on a wide range of topics from teaching in a changing Cyberworld to co-teaching and even a session on pension issues for early career teachers.

“The conference was great,” said Amanda Johnson, a first year teacher at Danbury High School. “I will be co-teaching next year and the session on being better together gave me some good tips to take into the classroom.”

Kara Ingalls, who teaches language arts at East Hartford Middle School, says the conference gave her an opportunity to meet with other first year and more experienced teachers to gain valuable insight on the profession. “It’s a great opportunity to speak with other educators and to learn from them. You get to see other new teachers and how they handle situations and it’s very useful,” said Ingalls.

Amanda Peterson has been teaching math at Danbury High School for four years. She’s attended the conference in the past and urges her colleagues to attend. “It’s fantastic,” she said. “The price is right, there are great lectures and sessions, and you learn so much information that helps you in the classroom and prepares you for what’s ahead.”

Educators Unite to Protect the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund

Nearly 30 retired teachers came to Hartford to urge legislators to preserve the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund today. Pictured left to right are Don Demers, John Battista, Mike Lingaro, Karin Pyskaty, CEA President Sheila Cohen, Jane Shugg, Mary-Jo Vocke, Rhea Klein, Ronald Green, Fonda Green, Bill Murray, and Walt Liplinski.

Nearly 30 retired teachers came to Hartford to urge legislators to preserve the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund today. Pictured left to right are Don Demers, John Battista, Mike Ungoro, Karin Pyskaty, CEA President Sheila Cohen, Jane Shugg, Mary-Jo Vocke, Rhea Klein, Ronald Green, Fonda Green, Bill Murray, and Walt Ciplinski.

“I paid $15,000 a year out of my pocket for health insurance before my wife and I turned 65 and were eligible for Medicare.”

“Retired teachers are on fixed incomes and we don’t get Social Security, so increases in our health care insurance costs are difficult to manage.”

“Both active and retired teachers have been paying more than their fair share—now it’s time for the state to keep its promise and continue funding the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund.”

Those are just some of the comments from nearly 30 retired teachers who attended an Appropriations Committee hearing at the State Legislative Office Building in Hartford today to show their support and urge legislators to preserve the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund.

The governor’s budget proposal eliminates the state’s contribution to the fund for the next two years.

CEA President Sheila Cohen, testifying before the committee, said the state is not upholding its end of the bargain, and is breaking its promise to active and retired teachers in Connecticut.

“The governor’s plan puts the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance fund in serious jeopardy, and that’s totally unacceptable,” she said.

Cohen added, “Active and retired teachers have always dutifully made their required health insurance contribution with the understanding that it will be there for them when they retire. The state should honor its obligation to Connecticut teachers.”

CEA is urging all teachers—active and retired—to call their legislators and tell them to continue the state’s 33 percent contribution to the fund.

Active teachers contribute 1.25% of their salary annually into the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund—this represents the largest contribution to the fund—over $45 million in 2012-2013.

Retired teachers also contribute to the fund—nearly $38 million in 2012-2013.

Members need to call, email, or write to their legislators and explain how the cuts to the fund would directly affect them.

Call your state representative and state senator and ask them to ensure that the budget restores the state’s funding to the Retired Teachers’ Health Insurance Fund. Click here to look up your state legislator.

•  House Democrats: 1-800-842-1902

•  House Republicans: 1-800-842-1423

•  Senate Democrats: 1-800-842-1420

•  Senate Republicans: 1-800-842-1421

CEA Tells Legislature Parental Engagement Key to Student Success

CEA President Sheila Cohen today told the legislature's Committee on Children

CEA President Sheila Cohen today told the legislature’s Committee on Children that a bill on parent engagement would address the struggle for time that parents often face.

Parents are working longer hours today than in past decades, making it even more difficult to maintain a healthy balance between work and family activities.

A balance between work and family creates more opportunities for parents to participate in their children’s educational experience, which improves student performance.

That’s why CEA asked the legislature’s Committee on Children to introduce HB 6501 An Act Creating Parental Engagement.  The bill would allow parents, guardians, or grandparents having custody of school-age children to take up to 20 hours of earned time for parental leave annually from their employment to attend qualified school-related activities involving their children.

CEA President Sheila Cohen told the Committee today that this bill would address the struggle for time that most parents face when work obligations conflict with the educational needs of their children.

“The participation of parents in all activities of the school community sends a strong message to children that school is important and part of the family culture,” said Cohen. “The more parents are involved in their children’s education, the higher the children’s academic achievement.”

Cohen pointed to numerous reports that show when schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children do better in school.

Studies show that children whose parents are involved in their education are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
  • Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills
  • Show improved behavior and adapt well to school
  • Graduate and go on to post-secondary education

Wendy Lecker, a Stamford parent with Parents Across America, supports the bill. In written testimony she said many parents can’t get the time off from work to fully engage in their children’s education.

“Greater parental involvement is key to ensuring children take full advantage of the benefits of public education,” said Lecker. “Promoting full participation by parents not only benefits the individual child, but helps to strengthen the entire family, school, and community.”

Increasing parents’ involvement in their children’s education is a key component of education reform efforts.

The Connecticut legislature considers volunteering in school to be so important that there are state statutes encouraging community members to take an active role in improving schools and becoming school volunteers, says Marne Usher, Vice President of Government Relations for the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association (CT PTSA).

The PTSA, the largest and oldest volunteer child advocacy association in the state with nearly 50,000 members statewide, supports the bill.

“Early childhood education programs that have demonstrated significant short- and long-term benefits for children all have intensive family involvement components,” said Usher. “Communicating with teachers and school administrators is also a crucial element of parental involvement.”

Twelve states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, currently provide parental leave for school-related activities.

Watch video excerpts from the hearing below, or read CEA President Sheila Cohen’s testimony.

CEA President Highlights Need to Focus on the Whole Child

The Connecticut Network recently hosted a live, televised town hall meeting titled, Moving from Tragedy to Action: The Power of Community. Experts and concerned state residents discussed ways for communities to come together after tragedies such as Sandy Hook.

CEA President Sheila Cohen told moderator Diane Smith that schools need to expand their focus. Cohen said that while teaching core subject matter is certainly important, “it is just as important to look at the behavioral, the social, the psychological, and the physical health and safety of our children.”

Watch Cohen’s comments below, or watch the entire Town Hall Meeting.

Witnessing History; Shaping the Debates of Our Time

Advisor Feb-MarchThe CEA Advisor will be arriving on your doorstep this week. Check out the issue (in print or online) to learn more about teacher evaluations, school funding, efforts to keep schools safe, how to donate to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, and more.

As a preview, below is CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake’s column in the February – March CEA Advisor.

Our Perspective – CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake

We felt a sense of history and pure excitement to be among the hundreds of thousands of people who attended President Barack Obama’s momentous inauguration on January 21.

There were Sousa marches, the ceremonial guns, and the voices of James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson, and Beyonce. But what was extra special was seeing President Obama take the oath of office on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. How appropriate that this inauguration coincided with the celebration of the birth of a great man who fought for equality through peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience. He also exemplified the ideals of our country’s founders—a theme sounded in the president’s address.

In his speech, President Obama sounded the theme of faith in America’s future, urging “fidelity to our founding principles.” He added, “When times change, so must we.” The president called for “new responses to new challenges.” One of those challenges, of course, involves gun and school safety.

It did not surprise us that the president was on message when he said, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”

In our view, the day was overshadowed by the somber mood we all feel after the horrific Newtown mass shooting. We vigorously applauded the president when he told Americans they have the power to set this country’s course, urging us to fulfill our “obligation to share the debates of our time.”

Working with teachers, state policymakers, and communities across the state, CEA is fulfilling our obligation to share in one of the critical debates of our time—gun and school safety.

New polling is basis for policy direction

We were heartened that our colleagues at the National Education Association (NEA) helped set the tone for this debate by releasing a national poll that showed educators nationwide overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe.

Wanting Connecticut-specific polling data for the Connecticut-specific state legislative debate, our state Association undertook our own poll. It was the first time Connecticut teachers were asked for their opinions about school and gun safety in a comprehensive manner that is representative of educators’ views.

Our CEA survey found that members overwhelmingly support stronger gun safety laws and updating school facilities to deal with modern dangers. In fact, almost all of our members surveyed favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases, and a majority support banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips. It also is notable that educators in Connecticut and nationwide outright reject the notion of teachers carrying guns in the classroom.

Our findings are similar to the recommendations that Vice President Biden submitted to President Obama in January. At both the state and national levels, there appear to be clear areas of agreement. We urge legislators in Washington, D.C., and Hartford to listen to their constituents and pass strong laws that will protect and keep America’s children safe from harm.

At the State Capitol, we were front and center when the state legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety started work on January 25. CEA testified before the Task Force’s School Safety Working Group, calling on the state to “do what is necessary to make sure every child in our state’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

CEA urged the task force to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and ensure that localities have the resources necessary, including more school counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

We believe that the task force should ask the full legislature to create School Safety Committees in every school. Districts should be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit. But the legislature would show leadership by acting swiftly and providing models that schools could review, edit, and adopt.

Dedicated teachers offered helping hand

There was great inspiration to be found in the outpouring of love and support following the Newtown shooting. We received calls from all over the world, including Europe, Mexico, and Australia, and from nearly every education association in the country, offering condolences and support. Everyone wanted to do something to help.

Here in Connecticut, teachers did whatever they could to help their Newtown colleagues. They held vigils; offered counseling and support; held fundraisers; donated to numerous funds; provided lunch to Sandy Hook teachers; participated in the snowflake project, creating paper snowflakes for display in the windows at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School; and so much more.

In Monroe, teachers paired up with Sandy Hook Elementary School faculty to help prepare new classrooms for students at the old Chalk Hill School. At a church service in Waterbury, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel joined Connecticut teachers in paying tribute to the victims.

These acts of kindness are not surprising, since we are a caring group ready to jump in and help in a time of crisis—in our home state and around the country. To that point, some of our colleagues from the Ohio Education Association Crisis Team, whom we contacted, did not hesitate to travel to Connecticut to help. They were a great resource for Newtown at the time of the crisis.

The Ohio team is one of several NEA state affiliates with organized crisis response teams that are part of the NEA Health Information Network Safe Schools Initiative. They are dispatched to help members deal with traumatic events and emergencies. The team is expected back in Newtown in the next few months to offer support to the teachers in what, as expected, will be a long healing process.

Moving forward

No matter where we encounter a colleague, when the talk turns to Sandy Hook, the attention gets focused on how to help in a meaningful and collective way. Toward this end, the CEA Board of Directors has voted to create the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund, within the Connecticut Education Foundation.

We’ve set a fundraising goal of $1 million to create a bronze memorial sculpture and a scholarship fund that will later be turned over to the UConn Foundation. Already there has been an outpouring of support and generosity, and we hope you will join it. You can visit to participate.

In the weeks ahead, your political action will also be needed to shape the debate on guns and school safety. As we mentioned at the beginning of this column, we hope you all feel our obligation to share the debates of our time. There is no greater challenge than ensuring that our schools are safe havens and that a mass fatality never again occurs in our state. There is a powerful North Star guiding our work, and we hope, yours. It is the timely paraphrase of a quote from President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep our children safe.

Potential & Pitfalls in Teaching Profession Bill: Read Testimony

There’s a move afoot at the state legislature to elevate the teaching profession. Proposed House Bill 6358, An Act Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools, at this point is only a framework. However, today CEA President Sheila Cohen told lawmakers she’ll continue discussions with top education officials to try and refine the initial legislation to ensure that teachers are meaningful partners in school innovation.

Commenting on the bill, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said, we recognize “we do not have a monopoly on good ideas.” According to the commissioner, the bill would foment innovation through joint work between teacher unions and school districts.

Read Cohen’s testimony here.

Watch an excerpt of Cohen’s testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee below.