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Oct 082012


October 3, 2012CONTACT:
Patrick Riccards, Chief Executive Officer
Office: (203) 772-4017, ext. 15
Mobile: (203) 535-5978

New Study: Connecticut Can Close its Nation-Leading Achievement Gaps by 2020

Innovative New Report from ConnCAN Describes What is Necessary to Close the Gaps on Student Performance, Graduation Rates, and SAT Scores Across State and in Alliance Districts

NEW HAVEN – Today, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) released The Roadmap, a groundbreaking guide to closing Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gaps. The Roadmap offers a student-centered approach to closing the gaps – gaps that up until now seemed virtually impossible to close.

This report focuses on the state’s 30 lowest-performing districts (“Alliance Districts” as identified by the State Department of Education), using CMT/CAPT data, graduation rates, and SAT scores, to determine the exact number of students that need to improve every year. If districts are able accomplish this feat, the achievement gaps will be closed by 2020.

“The thing that distinguishes this report from others is that we’ve moved away from percentages and statistics, and instead zeroed in on what matters most – actual students,” said ConnCAN CEO Patrick Riccards. “This is truly a solution-based approach to confronting our state’s achievement gaps.”

“Statewide, if two out of every 100 kids improve every year from below grade-level to at or above grade-level, we will close our achievement gaps by 2020,” Riccards said. “This year, my daughter started kindergarten in Connecticut public schools. If we follow this roadmap, by the time she starts high school, we should see our state’s achievement gaps gone.”

ConnCAN set target goals for each district:

  • 80 percent of all students at or above goal on CMT/CAPT;
  • 90 percent high school graduation rate; and
  • An average SAT score for all students of 1,550 (out of a total score of 2,400).

“Without taking deliberate and specific actions, at the current rate of progress, it will take nearly 60 years to close Connecticut’s achievement gaps at the elementary and middle school level, and more than 100 years to close the gaps at the high school level,” Riccards said. “But if we take a student-centered approach and focus on the kids in our public schools, we can close the gaps in just eight years. These are ambitious goals, yes, but they are both reasonable and achievable if we commit to it.”

“Let me be clear: we fully acknowledge that moving a low-performing student up to grade level is an incredible challenge that cannot be overstated or underestimated. It takes hard work, creativity, and dedication from all involved,” Riccards said. “We don’t believe this is an easy task, but we do believe that there is nothing more important than ensuring that every Connecticut student – regardless of race, family income, or zip code – succeeds. These numbers offer a compelling pathway for closing the gaps, providing boards of education and superintendents with clear metrics to measure their efforts to provide a great public education to all kids.”

Read The Roadmap here: http://conncan.org/theroadmap


The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) is an advocacy organization building a movement of concerned Connecticut citizens working to create fundamental change in our education system. To learn more, visit: www.conncan.org.



Oct 082012

The SAT Report on College and Career Readiness is attached.

Main Points:

  • Participation rates are at an all-time high and was the most diverse
  • Test scores are down
  • Approximately 1.66 million students took the SAT
  1. 52 % of the Class of 2012 up 6% from 2008
  2. 45 %  minority students (up from 38 percent in 2008)
  3. 28% reported that English was not their exclusive first language (up four percentage points from 2008)
  4. 36 % reported that their parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or less.

The SAT has 3 sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing. Each section is scored from 200 to 800. A perfect score is 2400.

The mean subject scores:

Critical reading = 496  (down four points from 2008—and down a whopping thirty-four points from 1972)

Math =  514 in math (consistent since 2008 but down from a peak of 520 in 2005)

Writing = 488  (down five points from 2008 peak )




Jul 102012

There has been a lot of  emotional controversy surrounding the potential increasing of class sizes due to the current budget woes.  What is the right size to maximize student learning?  How  many students are too many?  Below is an article that was originally published in  Education Week in  August, 2004 and recently updated and republished in July, 2011.  It deals with the topic of balancing  municipal and state budgets with class size and makes the point that class size alone does not ensure student achievement. Teaching practices in the classroom also need to be modified.  It also raises the point that  states have not been able to take class sizes down to the most optimum level  due to its costs prohibitive nature (16 students.)  Is it time to look at different practices in the  public classroom in order to deal with student learning?

Since we like data, we’ve published the sample class size lists of NPS  for Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 5th, 7th and high school as bench-marked across the state of Connecticut.

Copy of State-District Class Size Selected_Grades

Class Size:  Published in  Education Week  July, 2011.

Reducing class size has become a perennial education improvement strategy, often popular with teachers and parents for its ability to give teachers more individual instructional time with students. Yet as states and districts struggle with tight budgets, more policymakers and researchers have begun to turn away from straight class-size reduction in favor of other methods to increase individual instruction time, such as restructured class formats, co-teaching, and distance learning.

Reducing class size gained prominence as a federally supported school-improvement strategy in 2000, with the creation of a federal class-size-reduction program, which gave states funding to recruit, hire, and train new teachers. Under the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary School Act—also known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001—that program was consolidated into a more general teacher-quality block-grant program funded at $2.85 billion for 2002.

The national ratio of students to teachers in public schools fell between 1980 and 2008, from 17.6 to 15.8 students per teacher, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, because the statistics count special education and other specialized teachers who normally have much smaller classes than regular classroom teachers do, the U.S. Department of Education estimates the current average class size is closer to 25 students (Sparks, 2010).

In Quality Counts 2008, the EPE Research Center found that 21 states had a class-size reduction policy in place for the 2007-08 school year. By 2010, all but 15 states had laws restricting the number of students that may be included in a general education classroom, in some or all grades. Following the start of an economic downturn in 2008, 19 states relaxed or eliminated their class-size laws or policies, usually as a cost-saving measure (Sparks, 2010; Dorko, Sparks, 2010).

Likewise, states and districts have begun to shift their use of the federal teacher-quality block grants away from class-size reduction measures. According to an analysis by the Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, 38 percent of districts surveyed in 2008-09 used the grants, called Title II, Part A funds, to reduce class sizes, but overall, the number of teachers whose jobs were underwritten by those grants decreased by 40 percent between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009. (Chait, 2009)

Research, for the most part, tends to support the belief in the benefits of small classes. While not all studies on the subject have shown that students learn more in smaller settings—and some are still ongoing—most have linked smaller classes to improvements in achievement.

The biggest and most credible of those studies, Tennessee’s statewide Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, project, begun in the late 1970s, found that the learning gains students made in classes of 13 to 17 students persisted long after the students moved back into average-size classes (HEROS, 2011). What’s more, the Tennessee researchers found, poor and African-American students appeared to reap the greatest learning gains in smaller classes. After kindergarten, the gains black students made in smaller classes were typically twice as large as those for whites. Follow-up studies through the years have found the students who had been in small classes in their early years had better academic and personal outcomes throughout their school years and beyond (Krueger, 2001; Sparks, 2011).

Likewise, a 2001 evaluation of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, class size reduction program by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that a five-year-old program of class-size reduction in Wisconsin resulted in higher achievement for children living in poverty. Research from Columbia University Teachers College in New York showed the context of class-size reduction can affect its success in improving student achievement (Ready, 2008). Similarly, Charles M. Achilles, one of the original principal researchers on the STAR study, has said researchers and policymakers will have difficulty replicating the improvements seen in the STAR study without including key elements of that program, such as early intervention and small class sizes of three years or more (Achilles, 2008).

Researchers agree that shrinking the number of students in a class does not automatically translate into better learning. To squeeze the most out of their new settings, teachers may need to alter their teaching practices, dropping lecture-style approaches and providing more frequent feedback and interaction. And, while the studies that found positive effects from class-size reductions have focused on efforts that cut classes down to 16 or so students, states have so far tended to reduce classes only by a few students.

As school improvement ideas go, reducing class sizes is costlier than many others and more complicated than it appears at first blush. For example, Florida estimates its class-size program will cost $40 billion to implement through 2020. An analysis of 24 state policies by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy found many of those initiatives may not be worth the cost because the average class-size reductions were not large enough to improve student achievement (Whitehurst, 2011).

One concern surrounding efforts in various states to shrink class sizes is that the press for quantity will come at the expense of quality, forcing schools and districts to hire underqualified or unprepared teachers.

California learned that lesson firsthand when the state undertook its own class-size-reduction initiative beginning in 1996. In the first year of implementation, more than one-fifth of the new teachers hired in that state had only emergency credentials. Hit hardest were schools serving poor and minority students. In the hunt for new space, administrators found themselves carving classrooms out of broom closets and erecting portable classrooms on playgrounds.

It remains to be seen how much federal support will be given to class-size reduction programs in the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced a preference for expanding school days and years to increase instructional time over reducing class sizes. He cited statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group representing major industrialized countries, showing that several high-performing Asian countries have higher average class sizes: 33 in Japan and 36 in South Korea, compared with the estimated 25 students in the United States.

Dorko, K., Sparks, S.D., “Setting Class-Size Limits” (Interactive Map), Education Week, 2010.
Education Week, Quality Counts 2008: Tapping Into Teaching, Jan. 10, 2008.
Health and Education Research Operative Services, Inc., “Project STAR Overview,” 2011.
Sparks, S.D., “Class Sizes Show Signs of Growing,” Education Week, Nov. 24, 2010.
U.S. Department of Education, “Class-Size Reduction Myths and Realities,” 2002.

Jul 052012

With all of the controversy surrounding the reading program at Nathan Hale Middle School, we decided to take a look at CMT trend data for the  past 6 years.  Nathan Hale consistently outperformed the other middle schools, despite having feeder elementary schools that were not ranked # 1 in their reading  scores.   Did you know that Nathan Hale was #1 in reading scores for 4 out of 6 years in 6th grade and # 1 in 5 out of 6 years for 8th grade from 2006-2011.

6th Grade CMT Scores By Middle School 2006-2011

8th Grade CMT Scores By Middle School 2006-2011


Copy of CMT Scores Reading Middle Schools by class (3 years)

Jun 302012

With the passage of the SB 458 this spring, one of the strengths in the bill is the new legislative language regarding the need to  improve student reading and literacy BY 3rd GRADE.  With that in mind, we thought it beneficial to benchmark the reading scores of  Norwalk’s 12 elementary schools.  While a score of proficient had been an acceptable standard, with Connecticut’s recent promise of reform and federal government waiver of the No Child Left Behind legislation, the real objective for Connecticut’s educators will be the need to be raise the bar and focus on getting students reading at GOAL LEVEL in order to be considered to be on grade level.

Below are the last 3 years of 3rd Grade CMT Data:

2011 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

2010 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

2009 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

Feb 092012

The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes In Adulthood

Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, and Jonah E. Rockoff | National Bureau of Economic Research | December 2011


This study examines the question of whether teachers’ impact on students’ test scores (known as the “value added” model) is an accurate measure of teacher quality. Researchers analyze school district data spanning 20 years for more than 2.5 million students. The study shows that teachers have significant impact on student learning in all grades from four through eight, and that students assigned to high-value-added teachers are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education, attend higher-ranked colleges, earn higher salaries, live in higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods, save more for retirement, and are less likely to have children as teenagers. Based on this research, the report concludes that effective teachers create substantial economic value (for example, replacing a teacher whose value-added is in the bottom five percent with an average teacher would increase the present value of a classroom of students lifetime income by more than $250,000) and that test score results are helpful in identifying such teachers.

Click below to read the full report.


Feb 082012

The Carver Foundation of Norwalk kicked off the first of its newly planned 2012 Youth Forums on January 26th at Brien McMahon High School. This one was entitled: Mind the GapCivic Engagement Youth Forum on the Achievement Gap.

It was held in school’s auditorium and drew an audience of nearly 500, including students from Carver’s four middle school programs, as well as, educational activists from around the state and community.  Organized by Novelette Peterkin, the Executive Director at Carver, the panel was moderated by television anchor, Ali Reed of WTNH Channel 8.

The Youth Panel included students from Norwalk High, Brien McMahon and AITE and included:  NyAja Boyd, Tomar Joseph, Kortney Lelle, Isaiah Mohammed, Ellen O’Hara, Melissa Rojo, Edwin Rosales, and Tom Skipper.

The Adult Panel  included: Dr. Susan Marks, Superintendent, Laura McCargar, The Perrin Family Foundation, Dorcas Blue, Fairfield County Community Foundation,  Dr. Lynne Moore, Principal, West Rocks Middle School, Mike Barbis, Member of the Board of Education, Bruce Mellion, President, National Federation of Teachers, and Suzanne Brown Koroshetz, Principal, Brien McMahon High School.

Below are some of the major themes and ideas that the students reflected upon, in their own words, over the course of the 90 minute forum.

On Student Motivation:

  • Motivation is internal and you to have the fire in your belly
  • Need parental support at home
  • Economics play a part
  • Teamwork  is needed between  parent- teachers and student- teachers
  • Good teachers
  • Motivated students
  • Starts at home
  • Peer  group influence
  • Sports can be a motivator:  NHS raised GPA from 1.7 to 2.5 for participation
  • It’s your personal responsibility
  • Be the change you want to see
  • Find strength within your family
  • Achievement gap starts in elementary but too young to realize
  • Must respect the process of learning
  • Education is taken for granted
  • Education is a gift if coming from a third world country
  • Education gap starts at home and your principles and values
  • Work ethics – compete for your future
  • Personal drive
  • Find a mentor to change your situation

On What Can Schools Do

  • Get more kids involved in sports
  • Get higher level students to help tutor
  • Be involved- music, clubs, whatever
  • Teachers need to quit having low expectations
  • Show the consequences:  “Yale to Jail”
  • Push students harder
  • Raise the requirements
  • Mentor-Mentee  Older-Younger Students
  • Failure is NOT an option
  • Practical application of the real world
  • Need to bring real world into the classroom
  • Get involved in your community
  • Raise the bar of teachers
  • Fix some of our teachers
  • Fix the adults
  • Teachers need to call parents
  • Teamwork makes the dream work
  • Choose your friends wisely
  • Cool to go to School
  • Raise the attitude of the teachers you hire
  • Take into account what students think (teachers are biased)
  • Younger teachers are easier to relate to (Age versus attitude)
  • Don’t  let kids drop out at 16
  • NO articles in the Hour about kids
  • Take into account the voice of the students when hiring teachers and administrators

On What Should Students Be Learning? 

  • Principles and ethics
  • Life skills
  • Stop teaching to the test
  • Stop prepping for the test
  • Teach how to study
  • How to budget
  • How to write a resume
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • Discuss different culture, make more well rounded
  • Economics course
  • Survivor Skills
  • Apply what we learn for the real wor4lds
  • Civics
  • Apply what we learn to the real world- make relevant to kids
  • Global view
  • Teach kids how to observe concepts (not just about grades)
  • Have more technology
  • Have more surveys with kid input
  • Establish link between students and administration not just students to teachers
  • Only see Housemaster for when in trouble – make more positive