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Mar 022014

Last Thursday, February 27th, Norwalk Public Schools superintendent, Dr. Manny Rivera, presented his recommended PreK-5 English Language Arts Program to the Board of Education Curriculum and Instruction Committee.  Following the 60-minute power point presentation,  the committee voted 3-1 to forward his recommendations to the full Board of Education for review.  His plan includes the recommendation to go with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys as the primary English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum,  with Core Knowledge (CKLA) as an optional pilot alternative,  in a couple of schools for K-2 classrooms, and the adoptions of  Scholastic’s Core Knowledge Classroom Libraries to create independent reading libraries in every classroom.  The curriculum is expected to be voted on within the next 30 days, with implementation in the classrooms next fall, as districts get ready to deploy curriculum  that  supports the new Common Core State Standards.



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys

Core Knowledge Language Arts



Oct 012013

Last month, Norwalk ACTS released its Community Scorecard to its partnership of civic leaders and organizations that work to improve the lives of Norwalk’s children and youth.  The Scorecard was unveiled at Stepping Stones Museum for Children with the expressed intent to use it as a tool to communicate specific data, results or findings to the Norwalk community.

The Scorecard was produced by Norwalk ACTS community members, working toward the overarching  concept of collective impact.   Collective impact is defined by a diverse group, representing many different aspects of a student’s educational timeline, with ALL organizations working toward the same outcome and looking at student level data and using that data to continuously improve practices over time.

Norwalk ACTS was assisted by KnowledgeWorks, a Cincinnati, Ohio based company that developed the nationally recognized STRIVE methodology, for building a Cradle to Career civic infrastructure.  It has been adopted by school districts in 34 states.  The methodology is built on the following principles:

  • Shared Community Vision
  • Evidenced Based Decision Making
  • Collaborative Action
  • Planned Investment and Sustainability

Norwalk ACTS has identified six (6) community level outcomes that coincide with a student’s educational timeline and how data can be used to help identify success.

  1. Norwalk children are ready to enter kindergarten.
  2. Norwalk students meet the GOAL level in 3rd grade reading.
  3. Norwalk students have the necessary skills to successfully transition from 5th to 6th grade.
  4. Norwalk students have the necessary skills to successfully transition from 8th to 9th grade.
  5. Norwalk students graduate from high school in 4 years ready for college, post secondary training or full time-employment.
  6. Norwalk graduates are career-ready with a college degree or professional certificate.

Nowalk ACTS expects to release its first baseline Scorecard by the end of this calendar year.

Click the thumbnail view below to see Norwalk ACTS Scorecard.



Sep 142013

Very shortly, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT)  for 3rd-8th graders and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) directed at 10th graders, will be replaced  by The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium,  one of two multi-state consortia, awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education to develop an assessment system based on the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is creating next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts/literacy and  Mathematics.  The new system of computer adaptive assessments will include summary and formative tests and  provide information to teachers about whether students are on track, as well as resources and tools for teachers to help students succeed.

To learn more about the new testing or even take a sample test, click on the link below:

smarter balanced tests

Sep 052013

The Center For Education Reform has created the PARENT POWER INDEX, which gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether their state affords them power – and if not, what they can do to get it.  Click on the  link below to find out what power Connecticut parents have compared to other states in the U.S.   Issues like school choice, charter schools, on-line learning, teacher quality and transparency are addressed.


Summary: A poor charter law has plagued the state since its inception, but lawmakers did adopt a parent trigger law giving parents some power to make choices. A hearty group of parents are trying to pull the trigger on a failing school in one district, but they have not yet succeeded. While the state prides itself on paying teachers well, its quality indices are below average. Connecticut falls in the middle of the pack on digital learning, and parents will not find information easily about options or school quality through government agencies. School board elections are held in odd numbered years during May, diminishing parent power to effect change.

The Center For Education Reform was was founded in 1993 to bridge the gap between policy and practice and restore excellence to education. Today the Center is the pioneer and leading advocate for structural and sustainable changes that can dramatically improve educational opportunities in the U.S. We do that by primarily working to (1) generate and share leading ideas and information, (2) support and enable grassroots activism, and (3) protect and stimulate media coverage and issue accuracy.


Aug 222013

Professor Tony Wagner of Harvard weighs in on the global achievement gap affecting millions of U.S. students each year.  In his 2010 book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It  outlines some pretty staggering statistics regarding high school students:

Some Basic Facts

The high school graduation rate in the United States—which is about 70 percent of the age cohort—is now well behind that of countries such as Denmark (96 percent), Japan (93 percent), and even Poland (92 percent) and Italy (79 percent).

  • Only about a third of U.S. high school students graduate ready for college today, and the rates are much lower for poor and minority students.
  • Forty percent of all students who enter college must take remedial courses.
  • And while no hard data are readily available, it is estimated that one out of every two students who start college never complete any kind of post-secondary degree.
  • Sixty-five percent of college professors report that what is taught in high school does not prepare students for college. One major reason is that the tests students must take in high school for state-accountability purposes usually measure 9th or 10th grade-level knowledge and skills. Primarily multiple-choice assessments, they rarely ask students to explain their reasoning or to apply knowledge to new situations (skills that are critical for success in college), so neither teachers nor students receive useful feedback about college-readiness.
  • In order to earn a decent wage in today’s economy, most students will need at least some post-secondary education. Indeed, an estimated 85 percent of current jobs and almost 90 percent of the fastest-growing and best-paying jobs now require post-secondary education. Even today’s manufacturing jobs now largely require post-secondary training and skills.
  • According to the authors of “America’s Perfect Storm”: “Over the next 25 years or so . . . nearly half of the projected job growth will be concentrated in occupations associated with higher education and skill levels. This means that tens of millions more of our students and adults will be less able to qualify for higher-paying jobs. Instead, they will be competing not only with each other and millions of newly arrived immigrants but also with equally (or better) skilled workers in lower-wage economies around the world.”
  • The United States now ranks tenth among industrial nations in the rate of college completion by 25- to 44-year-olds.
  • Students are graduating from both high school and college unprepared for the world of work. Fewer than a quarter of the more than 400 employers recently surveyed for a major study of work-readiness reported that new employees with four-year-college degrees have “excellent” basic knowledge and applied skills. Among those who employ young people right out of high school, nearly 50 percent said that their overall preparation was “deficient.”
  • Only 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the last presidential election, compared to 70 percent of 34- to 74-year-olds.

To read more  from his book, click on the link below.

The Global Achievement Gap – Wagner

Apr 072013

Education Committee Makes Changes to Education Funding in Governor’s Proposed Budget 

The Education Committee approved a substitute for H.B. 6357 (“An Act Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education”) on March 28, 2013. The bill makes changes to a number of provisions in the original proposal. The following are some key changes.

  • Modifies the proposed ECS formula
  • Changes the weighting in the wealth calculation to weigh property wealth more heavily than income wealth
  • Reduces the proposed foundation amount from $11,754 to $11,525
  • Shifts some funding to the 10 lowest-performing districts
  • Eliminates the PILOT: State-Owned Property grant from the ECS account. This would be the first step in restoring the PILOT program to its current state.
  • Restores the public school transportation grant

Attached are updated town-by-town estimates of the ECS grant based on the Education Committee bill. The bill has been referred to the Appropriations Committee, which has a deadline of April 23.

13-34 Ed Comm Changes to HB 6357

Apr 032013

This week, The New York Times reported that  former Atlanta Superintendent, Dr. Beverly L.  Hall was indicted along with 30+ other district staff members for wide-spread cheating on standardized tests.  While this may be one of the largest incidents of cheating on standardized tests, they are not alone. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, blamed “test-crazed” education policies for the massive standardized-test cheating scandal. In a joint statement Tuesday, Weingarten and Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, declared, “Standardized tests have a role in accountability, but today they dominate everything else and too often don’t even correlate to what students need to know to succeed.” They added that school districts in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere have put “enormous pressure” on teachers to improve scores.

See full story below:


A new survey by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing reports confirmed cases of test score manipulation in at least 37 states and Washington, D.C. in the past four academic years.  The group has documented   more than 50 ways schools improperly inflated their scores during that period. Below are examples taken from actual cases documented in government and reports. You can learn more here about the misuse of tests.

50 Ways to Cheat on Tests

Fail to store test materials securely
Encourage teachers to view test forms before they are administered
Teach to the test by ignoring subjects not on exam
Drill students on actual test items
Share test items on Internet before administration
Practice on copies of previously administered “secure” tests
Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school
Hold-back low scorers from tested grade
“Leap-frog” promote some students over tested grade
Transfer likely low-scoring students to charter schools with no required tests
Push likely low scorers out of school or enroll them in GED programs
Falsify student identification numbers so low scorers are not assigned to correct demographic group
Urge low-scoring students to be absent on test day
Leave test materials out so students can see them before exam

During Testing
Let high-scorers take tests for others
Overlook “cheat sheets” students bring into classroom
Post hints (e.g. formulas, lists, etc) on walls or whiteboard
Write answers on black/white board, then erase before supervisor arrives
Allow students to look up information on web with electronic devices
Allow calculator use where prohibited
Ignore test-takers copying or sharing answers with each other
Permit students to go to restroom in groups
Shout out correct answers
Use thumbs up/thumbs down signals to indicate right and wrong responses
Tell students to “double check” erroneous responses
Give students notes with correct answers
Read “silent reading” passages out loud
Encourage students who have completed sections to work on others
Allow extra time to complete test
Leave classroom unattended during test
Warn staff if test security monitors are in school
Refuse to allow test security personnel access to testing rooms
Cover doors and windows of testing rooms to prevent monitoring
Give accommodations to students who didn’t officially request them

Allow students to “make up” portions of the exam they failed to complete
Invite staff to “clean up” answer sheets before transmittal to scoring company
Permit teachers to score own students’ tests
Fill in answers on items left blank
Re-score borderline exams to “find points” on constructed response items
Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones
Provide false demographic information for test takers to assign them to wrong categories
Fail to store completed answer sheets securely
Destroy answer sheets from low-scoring students
Report low scorers as having been absent on testing day
Share content with educators/students who have not yet taken the test
Fail to perform data forensics on unusual score gains
Ignore “flagged” results from erasure analysis
Refuse to interview personnel with potential knowledge of improper practices
Threaten discipline against testing impropriety whistle blowers
Fire staff who persist in raising questions
Fabricate test security documentation for state education department investigators
Lie to law enforcement personnel



Apr 032013

In February this year, Norwalk’s  Board of Education listened to a read out from CREC  on how it could improve its Special Ed practices in the area of consistency and transparency.  It would seem that Norwalk is not alone.  Last month, members of the group SPEDucated Parents of Darien and other parents of children in SPED (about 24 parents) have filed an unprecedented group complaint with the Connecticut State Dept of Education against their Special Ed Administration.  The complaint stems from not  including parents in their children’s Individual Education Plans (IEP.)  Under federal law and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, Special Education students and parents are entitled to due process.  Part of the Darien parent’s complaint to the State Department of Education states:

We are parents of children with disabilities in the Darien Public Schools.  We write to request that you convene a hearing, pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §1413(d)(1) to withdraw funds from the Darien Board of Education for its systematic violations of parental rights under the IDEA [the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act].  We recognize that this is a drastic remedy and one that has never been invoked in Connecticut.  Nevertheless, the extent of wrongdoing and violation of the rights of students with disabilities by the Darien Public Schools warrants serious consideration by the State Department of Education, pursuant to its supervisory responsibility over local education authorities pursuant to the IDEA.

Below are links to the developing story.








Apr 032013

Recently the Connecticut Mirror ran a story about 5th Grade teacher, Sharon Leger, who had  revealed that as a new teacher she was never taught in college how to get, and keep, the attention of her students. She also said that never learned how to tailor her lessons to students who don’t speak English or have special education needs.  Each year, 21 of the state’s  public and private colleges graduate about 3500 teachers each year however in two national surveys,  two  out of every three new teachers felt they had not been properly prepared for the classroom.

Click Below to read the full story.


Last year, the Education Reform Bill created EPAC (Educator Preparation Advisory Committee)  to work with the Board of Regents for Higher Education and the University of Connecticut to study issues concerning teacher preparation.  Their recommendations are attached in the report below:






Mar 222013

The Norwalk BoE released the following Superintendent Search documents prepared by the search firm ProAct.   Of particular interest is a compilation of  the Stakeholder Feedback   from the community.  Over 589 people were involved in the collaborative process.  Three questions were asked:

1. What are the strengths of the Norwalk Public Schools?
2. What are the challenges facing the Norwalk Public Schools system in the next three to five years?
3. What are the most important characteristics you would like to see in the next superintendent?

The data and ultimate superintendent profile that was created are attached below, as well as a proposed project timeline.


Norwalk-Superintendent Community Feedback Summary