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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



Feb 032013

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has completed the Parent Survey (feedback) portion of the new PEAC evaluation process for teachers and principals.  The new evaluation process for teachers will be comprise of:

  • Teacher Classroom Performance and Practice 40%
  • Parent  or Peer Feedback 10%
  • Student Growth and Development 45%
  • Whole School Student Learning Feedback 5%

The new evaluation process* for administrators will be comprised of:

  • Student Learning 45%
  • Leadership Practice 40%
  • Stakeholder Feedback 10%

* I don’t know why it doesn’t add up to 100%

Below are two links that connect you to a bank of questions that the CSDE  has developed and that school districts can select from.




To understand more about the parent and community component of the new process. Click on the link below.



Aug 072012

Attached is a report prepared by GE in response to assessing Norwalk’s readiness to deploy the Common Core State Standards in 2014-15.  However, it reveals much more than that and touches upon the governance and status quo issues that have plagued Norwalk for over a decade.  The 21 page report – which you can quickly skim over in 10-15 minutes outlines the following (we apologize that it was scanned upside down, you’ll have to rotate it 🙂 )outlines the following:

GE Report On Norwalk

Our Strengths

  1. Steady student gains
  2. Quality instruction
  3. Common Formative Assessments
  4. Data Teams
  5. Relationships at School level
  6. Pockets of strong leadership
  7. Support for CCSS
  8. Some district structures
  9. General Support for new Superintendent her reforms but many political challenges

 Our Challenges

  1. Communication & Consistent Practices
  2. Schools reflect independent ‘city states’
  3. Inadequate funding
  4. Limited capacity for implementation of CCSS
  5. Lack of technical capacity
  6. BOE politics and dysfunction
  7. Leadership tension and constant change
  8. Over involvement of union leadership

In light of Dr. Marks’ resignation, we would like  our readers to call  particular attention to items 6, 7 and 8 in the Challenges Section of this document.     While Norwalk is not in such dire straits as other school districts, it is UNDER-PERFORMING and we believe it has much to do with the adult actions.   This GE Report, reflects  a common theme that was written up by Price Waterhouse in 2002, in a Cambridge Report in 2007 and a Special Education Report by CREC in 2008.  Must children, parents and the community be forced to wait until these individuals retire before we can truly embrace reform?

Feb 282012

About this survey

ConnCan hired  Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, Inc. (DHM Research) to conduct a telephone survey of Connecticut teachers and administrators to determine their opinions on education reform in the state.

Research Methodology: Between January 10 and 12, 2012, DHM Research conducted a telephone survey of 400 teachers and administrators that took an average of 12 minutes to
administer. This is a sufficient sample size to assess opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups, including gender, length of experience, and assignment

The sample used for the random survey started with a list of 51,000 education professionals obtained from the Connecticut State Department of Education. For this study, certain types
of education professionals were excluded from the sample list (e.g., school librarians). The final sample was drawn from a list of approximately 26,000 full-time classroom teachers
and administrators (5% of the sample) with home phone numbers.

The survey contains questions regarding: opinions on school staffing policies, what teachers think should matter most in reviewing or furthering teacher certification, personal experiences, in their schools,  regarding teacher performance, whether they have experienced wage freezes as a result of the economy, what their biggest challenges are as public school teachers in general and a host of other questions.

Click below to access the results of the survey.


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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 312012

Norwalk  State Representative Gail Lavielle  provided information to parents about the upcoming  state legislative session at the monthly PTOC meeting held last week.  As a member of the Education Committee, she encouraged parents to reach out and let her know about any concerns they may have, so that she can address them when legislators meet next month.   Educational topics reviewed with parents included:

  • Sources of ideas of proposals directed at education reform
  • Governor Malloy’s Recommended Guidelines
  • Areas of Common Ground
  • Major Questions
  • ECS Task Force
  • Bullying Law
  • Encouraged Parental and Constituent Input

Attached is her Power point presentation.  NorwalkPTO

Gail can be contacted at:  gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov or www.replavielle.com






Nov 102011

Last Spring, the Superintendent conducted a School Climate Survey.  While not perfect, it was a first for the Norwalk Public School District, insofar as it categorically asked questions to all NPS staff and parents, across the district, in order to elicit stakeholder feedback to improve our schools.

The response rate included:

  • 1189 staff members (mainly teachers)  80% response rate
  • 1050 parents – 20% response rate (although response rates varied by school)
  • 90.8% of respondents identified themselves as white

The surveys were intended to  help school leaders understand what parents and staff see as the strengths and weaknesses of their school’s learning environment.

Respondents were asked their satisfaction with ten key areas: Student Learning/Progress, Staff/Student Expectations, Professional Development, Technology, Safety and Security,  School Leadership, School Atmosphere, Facilities, School Meals, and Transportation.

Another School Climate Survey will be conducted next spring and NPS staff hope to include measures that increase the response rate from parents in the community, especially the African American and Hispanic communities.

Below is a District Level Summary of the Survey.  A detailed breakdown (by individual school) of the district results can be found by clicking on the Norwalk Public School website.


Norwalk Public SchoolsSurveys11111




Oct 242011

Community Conversation about Civility – October 12, 2011 @ Norwalk CT Fat Cat Pie Co.
Norwalk 2.0 & REd APPLES

The results are in from the first community conversation about civility hosted by Norwalk 2.0 and Red
APPLES on October 12th at Fat Cat Pie Company. About 50 Norwalk residents, reflecting a cross-section
of the community, shared their views in writing by taking the five-question civility quiz on a series of
posters around the room. They also selected drink tickets with civility attributes with show respect
topping the list, followed by seek common ground, show appreciation and listen tied for 2nd.
Participants’ written comments indicated they experienced nearly twice as many examples of uncivil
behavior as civil behavior over the past year.

Listening, collaboration and general politeness topped the list of civil behaviors. Little
things like saying please, thank you, good morning, and have a nice day make a big difference
according to the data collected. Participants also acknowledged the kind of collaboration
that took place after the recent hurricane with neighbors helping each other.

Examples of uncivil behavior included rudeness e.g., interrupting, not listening, bullying,
and general loss of self-control in public and on-line where people often hide behind anonymity.
Road rage was also cited as a troubling behavior.

Creating a civil community is important, according to participants, because people want
Norwalk to be successful, it’s easier to get things done, and they want to continue living here.

They also acknowledged the relationship between democracy and civil behavior, perhaps
taking a cue from George Washington who said, “Every action done in company ought to be
with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

The Speak Your Peace Civility Project in Wisconsin website states, “This is not a campaign
to end disagreements. It is a campaign to improve public discourse by simply reminding
ourselves of the very basic principles of respect. By elevating our level of communication and
avoiding personal attacks and general stubbornness, we can avoid unhealthy debate. This will
lead to a more effective democracy and help maintain our sense of community by increasing
civic participation.”

The 4th question on the quiz asked people to identify something they could do in their
everyday work/life to be more civil. Comments focused on increasing self-awareness, developing
patience, and improving listening skills:

• Think before I speak, words can hurt.
• Slow down and be more patient.
• Listen to everyone and respect opposing opinions.
• Look for common ground.

According to one participant, “civility should be a normal, natural part of our
existence…simply treat others how you want to be treated…have respect.” Another suggested
that public officials and town employees need to learn that “a resident asking a question does
not equate to challenging the official.” Another shared, “Walk the walk, the world hates a fake.”

Norwalk 2.0 and REd APPLES plan to keep the civility conversation going by sharing the results of the
civility quiz and promoting ongoing dialogue through future programs