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Feb 082013
 

Connecticut is not the only state trying to clean up its public education system.  A NY Times article provides an brief overview of the reforms that the neighboring, New York Education Reform Commission has identified.  Extending the school day, breaking an academic calendar, tied to an agrarian culture, consolidating school districts and having teachers pass a type of ‘bar exam’ similar to the ones doctors and lawyers must pass before they enter the profession are just some of the recommendations.

To view the article click below :

 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/nyregion/education-commission-recommends-core-reforms.html?emc=eta1

To view the report click below:

EducationReformCommissionReport- NY

Mar 292012
 

REd APPLES is  proud to be closely aligned and affiliated with two of the  six organizations (ConnCAN and Connecticut Council For Education Reform)  that released the following statement regarding  their disappointment over the modified version of Senate Bill 24 that passed in  the Education Committee on Monday.   We are pleased that our Norwalk Representative, Gail Lavielle  also expressed her dissatisfaction with the watered down bill, and as a result voted against it in Committee. 

The new version of the bill diminishes the ability to intervene in low performing schools and postpones administration and teacher evaluation models.  We completely acknowledge  and accept the critical role of  parent responsibility in a child’s educational success, BUT  we also want to draw attention to a flaw that has developed over the years in education; whereby we see virtually no credible accountability measures in place for  evaluating the competency or effectiveness of staff, in the classroom or school building, once  hired into a  district.   Ineffective staff,  get shuffled around  until they retire and/or staff that could benefit from ongoing professional development do not get it.  When compared to any other sector in society,  private or public, this just seems wrong.  While 85-90% of educational staff  are effective in their performance, there still exists a significant percentage of staff that are not.  These staff (both administrative and classroom) may be having no impact or even an adverse impact on a child’s future performance in the so-called three R’s of reading, writing or arithemetic.  Other consequences of an ineffective evaluation process, includes the ongoing impact  of low moral, on an overall building,  when an employee’s poor performance is not appropriately documented and subsequently handled.

Below is the joint press release  regarding the handling of Senate Bill 24:

HARTFORD—Six education and business groups* today came together to express disappointment over the modified version of Senate Bill 24 that passed the Education Committee on Monday and the process by which it was negotiated. Here is their statement:

The new version of S.B. 24 fails to move forward with several of the bold proposals Governor Malloy put forth, and it signals a lack of urgency to fix the fundamental issues that plague Connecticut’s public school system.

The process by which changes to this bill were negotiated excluded the voices of Superintendents, Boards of Education, principals, parents, community leaders, and students. The result is a bill that reflects compromises that appear to be brought on by pressure from the teachers unions.

In this process, the Education Committee watered down or delayed many of the important reforms originally proposed. As it is now written, this bill will not bring about the reforms Connecticut’s students need. Next week, our organizations will convene to issue a formal statement and analysis that outlines our specific concerns about the current version of the bill.

We are hopeful that bipartisan legislative leaders, committed to providing all students a high-quality educational program, will involve all stakeholders during the next phase of this legislative process, and will work in partnership with Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor to return the tenets of bold reform to this bill. Collectively, we must get this right for Connecticut’s children.

 

* The groups are: Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), and the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN).

Contacts: 

Joe Cirasuolo, CAPSS

jcirasuolo@capss.org

Robert Rader, CABE

rrader@cabe.org

Karissa Niehoff, CAS

kniehoff@casciac.org

Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN

patrick.riccards@conncan.org

Rae Ann Knopf, CCER

Raeann.knopf@ctedreform.org

Louis Bach, CBIA

Louis.Bach@cbia.com

 

Jan 312012
 

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Contact: Evelyn Quigley (203) 857-0306

FAIRFIELD COUNTY’S REGIONAL PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL NOW ACCEPTING

LOTTERY APPLICATIONS FOR THE 20012-13 SCHOOL YEAR.

Side by Side Charter School’s Innovative Approach to Education Emphasizes Hands-On, Experiential Learning

Norwalk, CT – Side by Side Charter School will be accepting enrollment applications for Fall 2012 to fill seats in grades Pre-K (3 and 4 year olds) through Eighth grade. Lottery applications will only be made available during one of our scheduled Open Houses. In order to attend an open house, you must make a reservation.  

For reservations, please call 203-857-0306. Open house dates are as follows:

February:

  • Wed, 2/1 @ 10:30
  • Wed, 2/29 @5pm

March:

  • Wed, 3/14 @10:30
  • Wed, 3/28 @10:30

April:

  • Wed, 4/11 @5pm

The Lottery will be held on Wednesday, April 25 at 5:00pm in the gym at Side by Side. Admission information can be found on our website www.sbscharter.org.  Side by Side Charter School, a school of choice in the region for fifteen years was one of the first charter schools in the state. Consistent with our core belief that a child’s intellectual, social and emotional growth develops through authentic experiences both in the classroom setting and in the exciting world that exists just beyond our doorstep, our curriculum, while in transition to meet common core standards, incorporates challenging interactive lessons, partnerships with neighboring museums and art centers, Long Island Sound science studies, and field trips to local commercial enterprises and municipal offices as well as  historical and cultural destinations far afield.

Jan 312012
 

2012 Legislative Priorities

NOTE: The following proposals reflect the key legislative priorities of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) for 2012.  These legislative suggestions were born out of the recommendations developed by the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement (CCEA).

Fostering Great Teachers and Leaders

Overview Connecticut must ensure that its schools have the most effective teachers and leaders.  Reforms must be enacted to redesign the state’s employment, compensation, evaluation, professional development, retention and dismissal procedures.

Proposals

Teacher professional development is improved and targeted to individual teacher need as defined by redesigned teacher evaluation systems that emphasize effectiveness.

  • Design teacher employment and retention policies in ways that attract the highest-quality teaching professionals and insist upon effectiveness not seniority, as the measure of success defined by redesigned evaluation systems.  Key characteristics of this system include:
    • A more compressed timeframe for improvement and dismissal proceedings, driven by a teacher’s ability to attend to student need as a dominant component of the process.
    • Teachers removed for ineffectiveness do not have to be reassigned, and principals are able to hire teachers who can best serve their schools.
    • Tenure is not a permanent status, but dependent upon teacher effectiveness.
  • Teacher compensation is restructured to include career levels with increases in pay and responsibility based on effectiveness. Bonus pay for teachers may be based on school, group and/or individual performance. Incentives are provided to encourage teachers and administrators to work in low-performing schools.Necessary steps are taken to improve the teacher talent pipeline including dramatically improving teacher preparation programs.
  • Superintendents and principals are afforded relevant hiring and retention authority at the district and school level, respectively.
  • Principal evaluations are redesigned so that compensation and retention are based largely on student academic growth and overall performance.
  • Superintendents should establish and publicly report annual student performance goals.
  • Data on the distribution of effective teachers at the school and district levels are aggregated and made publicly available on an annual basis.
  • Certification provisions are revised to permit reciprocity with other states for qualified school leaders and teachers and permit employment of best candidates through non-traditional routes.
  • Private sector contributions are allowed and encouraged to support enhanced compensation options in developing effective incentive systems.

Pre-K and Kindergarten

Overview Recent estimates indicate that each year on average, 9,000 low-income three- and four-year olds in Connecticut do not have access to high-quality preschool.  Given the substantial short and long-term positive benefits of preschool for all children, but in particular low-income children, Connecticut should provide sufficient funding for all low-income three- and four-year olds to attend a high-quality preschool program.

Proposals

  • Using a multi-year phase-in process, provide sufficient funding for all low-income three and four year olds to attend a high-quality preschool program.
  • Require and fund all-day kindergarten in all priority school districts.

Academic Intervention Overview Research shows that low-achieving students can be helped through effective interventions that supplement learning time.  Summer school programs alone can make up for much of low-income students’ summer learning losses.

Proposals

  • Require academic interventions for every K-12 student who falls below basic in reading and math on pre-determined state benchmarks.
    • Academic interventions should be staffed by effective teachers.
  • At the discretion of the Commissioner, for individual schools that are identified based on pre-determined criteria, interventions may include summer school, in school tutoring, extended learning time, or Saturday academies.
  • Require high school graduates to pass an assessment test to ensure that a high school diploma reflects levels of competence aligned with college as well as workforce readiness.

Turnaround Schools Overview

Based on Federal No Child Left Behind metrics, approximately 135 Connecticut schools have been “In Need of Improvement” for more than five years.  Comprehensive and bold turnaround strategies must be enacted as part of a new accountability and intervention framework.

Proposals

  • Implement a differentiated framework for intervention with additional authority at the state and local levels to take all steps necessary to improve or change dramatically underperforming schools and maximize staffing flexibility
  • Expand choice options for parents in selecting the right educational environment for their children by supporting the formation of high-performing magnet, charter and other innovative school models, particularly for children otherwise assigned to low-performing schools.
  • Strengthen financial support for such alternatives by ensuring appropriate funding levels follow the child.

Common Chart of Accounts

Overview Connecticut currently has no way to track whether education dollars are being spent effectively or efficiently.  There are currently several broad categories for reporting which can lead to different classifications between districts.  Additionally, research indicates that inequities within districts are often more severe than across districts but it is impossible to know given current reporting requirements.

Proposals

  • Require the CT State Department of Education (SDE) to:
    • Develop and implement a uniform system of accounting for school expenditures that includes a chart of accounts to serve as an accounting and reporting tool.
    • Require school districts to adopt this uniform system of accounting.
    • Identify and eliminate redundant, outdated and/or irrelevant reporting requirements for school districts upon adoption of the uniform system of accounting.

 

Jan 102012
 

A Governor’s Call to Education Reform

By Lauren Rosato,  President, Norwalk Education Foundation (www.norwalkeducation.org),  Co-Founder, RedApples of Norwalk

On Thursday, January 5th, I was one of the lucky 500 who attended Governor Malloy’s Education Workshop 2012: The Year for Education Reform. Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor noted that the event registration was filled in just 17 minutes during the slow holiday week. It’s a testament to the heightened interest in our state’s public education system, especially with the onset of the spring legislative session.

The 500 attendees were representative of politicians, union leaders, higher education leaders, K-12 educators, parents, education reform organizations, board of education members, private funders, and many other individuals and groups concerned with the state of public education in Connecticut.

What I heard was revolutionary. It’s not that I’d never heard the message before. It’s just that I’d never heard the message coming so clearly from a Connecticut governor. It was usually from some other state leader who already had a progressive education policy, and understood the serious and immediate need for a highly educated populace, so that his/her state could compete globally. I can’t tell you how many of these conferences I’ve attended over the years, mostly in other states.

So attending this conference was exciting, especially since our state has lagged so far behind and for so long, It’s the reason we didn’t win Race The Top federal funding, twice. It’s the reason we’re an aging, graying state with 1,000 vacant manufacturing jobs and no skilled labor to fill them. It’s also the reason, as Governor Malloy said in his closing remarks, that our state has not been able to grow jobs for the past 20 years and we are now 1 of 3 states to boast the title “Net Job-Loss” state. Couple that with our #1 title of “ Highest Achievement Gap in the Nation”, and you get the picture.

We heard presentations of bold ideas and solutions from both Connecticut and out-of-state folks. There were Connecticut superintendents admitting what they’ve known for a long time, but never voiced so publicly before.

One Superintendent said that as a customer who has jobs, he’s told a bunch of teacher colleges that their product is downright inferior and he just won’t buy it anymore. Why? Because when he goes to college fairs to recruit teachers and asks how many can use a Smartboard, no one raises their hand. Why? Because the teacher colleges don’t have Smartboards, yet his district has one in every classroom. “So why should I hire these teachers, then waste my time and money training them?” he asks. Then the discussion becomes very real and serious about the difference between how teachers are prepared for the job, and what the job actually entails. “Perhaps we need more lab schools,” they say.

In the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) discussion, we heard from the State of Rhode Island on how they completely revamped their education funding distribution. They researched how to more accurately and precisely calculate low- income children, and interestingly, found that some towns with high property values also had very large populations of low-income children, and were not being appropriately funded.  Sound familiar, Norwalk?

Rhode Island is phasing in their funding changes over a 10-year period while clearly and transparently communicating every change with every constituent: bold lessons from our neighboring state.

Then there were the skeptics, like the Stamford and New Britain board of education members who said they don’t need outsiders telling them what’s best for their town. They just need adequate funding to do the job right.

In closing, Governor Malloy looked down from his podium to the first row of reserved tables of legislators, and told them he’d be responsible, but they need to make it happen.

It’s a bold message that’s going to require political courage on the part of our elected officials to make bold changes this legislative session. It’s the right thing to do, at the right time, for the long-term survival of our state, but not necessarily what buys votes for the next election.

 

 

 

 

Nov 022011
 

Mr. Matthew Nittoly, Director of Side by Side Charter School and Emily Lopez, Principal of Columbus Magnet School, are pleased to announce plans for a professional development workshop on Tuesday November 8, that will bring teachers, assistant teachers and administrators from both Side by Side Charter School and Columbus Magnet School together for two half day sessions that uniquely correlate to the Bank Street Curriculum and constructivist roots of the mission of both schools. The first session will be facilitated by staff developers Betsy Grob and Mollie Welsh-Kruger from Bank Street College and will explore both the role and definition of “intentional teaching in the constructivist classroom.” The other half day will engage teachers in a discussion on the “Art of Questioning” – using questions to promote rigorous, critical thinking in our students and will feature a dynamic presentation by Christopher Eaves, artistic director of eavesdrop®, a New York City theatre and arts education collective. Both schools view this collaboration as a wonderful cost sharing opportunity and a prelude to meaningful professional dialogue between the teaching staffs of both schools.

 

 

 

 

Evelyn Quigley, Parent Community Coordinator

Side by Side Charter School

10 Chestnut Street

Norwalk, Ct 06854

203-857-0306, x130

e.quigley@sbscharter.org

 

Oct 272011
 

The 2011-2014 District Improvement Plan is a goal oriented, data driven, multi-year plan that identifies adult actions directed at improving student performance across the District in the areas of:

1) literacy

2) numeracy

3) creating strong and viable linkages between the District and parents and the community.

The plan articulates the district’s goals based upon data analysis and outlines adult and student implementation strategies in order to improve student achievement.  The plan  also specifies a monitoring process  used to ensure that the actual work is completed as designed.

The District Plan has two components: the strategies and processes that can only be accomplished at the District level and plans that are developed at the school level.

In addition to the district plan, each school develops its own School Growth Plan  and specifies the work  needed to be done in order to meet District goals. Each school plan  focuses on improving  student performance and identifies strategies and processes that are unique to the needs of each school.  Individual school growth plans will be completed by each building principal by the end of November.

District Improvement Plan 2011-2014-10-27-11

Oct 262011
 

An Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) Task Force has held two meetings in the past week- one in New Haven and the other last night in Waterford.  Publicity about these meetings has been scant at best.  Red Apples learned about the meetings at the last minute and provided written public comments, which are attached below.

The state allocates approximately $2B in taxpayer dollars towards education in a formula known as Educational Cost Sharing (ECS.)  Money is redistributed and allocated to cities and school districts in what can best be described as convoluted, inequitable and an unaccounted for process.  Norwalk taxpayers have  long been short-changed in getting our fair share of tax revenues sent to Hartford, even though we are the 6th largest city in the state and have 43.7% of our students on Free or Reduced lunch.  Advocating for the revamping the ECS Formula should be a TOP PRIORITY for our local politicians, Board of Education members and state representatives. The  Norwalk Common Council passed a resolution regarding ECS funding earlier this year, but that message needs to be made louder to Hartford.

Residents need to write to their elected officials and let them know that Norwalk deserves to get it own tax dollars back in order to properly and fairly fund our school district.  Below is a list of the email’s of  Norwalk’s state representatives:

Bob.Duff@cga.ct.gov

larry.cafero@cga.ct.gov

Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov

chris.perone@cga.ct.gov

bruce.morris@cga.ct.gov

terri.wood@cga.ct.gov

 

 

ECS Task Force Public Comments

ECS Debate – Two Sides to the Story

Norwalk Common Council – ECS Resolution

Click below to view the Connecticut State Department of Education Bureau of Grants  2010-11 List

 

Oct 052011
 

PRESS RELEASE: 

A Community Conversation on Civility Gathers on October 12th

NORWALK – Norwalk 2.0, a community development advocate, working with REd APPLES, a grassroots non-partisan community coalition organized around improving Norwalk Public Schools are co-hosting a Community Conversation about Civility on Wednesday, October 12th from 6-8 p.m. in the Fat Cat Pie Co. special events room at 3-5  Wall St.

Both organizations want to start a conversation about how we as citizens behave in public.  Whether it’s the Board of Education, the board room or public hearings, the climate of community discussion is in peril. What can citizens of Norwalk do to renew a sense of civility and respect?

The event is free, and open to the public.  Light snacks will be provided by Fat Cat, and a cash bar will be provided for those wishing to have a glass of wine. Come, listen and share your ideas about what you are willing to do to change our community culture from one characterized by dysfunction and bullying to one built on respect and civil discourse.

For more information visit the websites: www.norwalk2.org and www.redapplesnorwalk.org

###

PRESS CONTACTS:

 

For RED APPLES: Lisa Thomson lisa109@optonline.net

For Norwalk 2.0: Maribeth Becker mb@norwalk2.org

 

Civility References:

Former Norwalk resident , Greg Bard was intrigued by our Civility Night at Fat Cat’s and emailed us the following link to share with residents, demonstrating how a large,  international and diverse organization like WIKIPEDIA  gets its editors to cooperate.  Wikipedia touts civility as one of its most important values, driving polite and efficient  productivity out of its distributed editing organizations.  We will post more  relevant links on civility as we find them.   We wish Greg could join us…but he sent his best wishes with regrets from sunny Florida!

Wikipedia: Civility