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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

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 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



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 :


To view the report click below:

EducationReformCommissionReport- NY

Nov 262012

According To US News and World Report:

Seven U.S. states have passed “parent trigger” laws, which give parents the ability to petition for changes at their children’s low-performing public schools.  If more than half of the parents at a school sign the petition, the school district must comply with the changes.  These can include hiring a new staff, hiring a public charter school operator to take over reforms, or closing the school altogether and sending students to better performing neighboring schools.

Proponents of the laws say it gives parents real power to make a change in schools that are chronically failing when the administration has been unable to improve student performance. They say that parents at these schools, often in poor and minority neighborhoods, should be able to take steps in closing the achievement gap to which their children fall victim. It allows parents, they argue, to take a dominant role in their children’s educations and actively advocate for better schools.

Opponents of the parent trigger laws say merely signing a petition isn’t the appropriate way for parents to institute reforms. Allowing parents to instigate such disruptive changes denies teachers and parents the ability to work together to improve the school community, often relinquishing control of the process to a third-party charter company. Those against the laws maintain that there is no proof that they work, and though well-intentioned, the trigger system gives parents the false perception that they don’t have to play any other active role in improving their child’s education.


This article first appeared http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/is-there-a-need-for-parent-trigger-laws/fixing-our-failing-schools-is-a-civil-rights-issue

Michelle Rhee, CEO at Students First:  Communities Need Parent Trigger Laws   

Parents of children at Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., didn’t decide to seek an overhaul of the school using the state’s 2010 parent-trigger law lightly, or with little thought. They sought changes on numerous occasions, giving administrators plenty of chances to bring about improvements at the school, where 70 percent of sixth graders aren’t reading or doing math on grade level and which has been on a state list of failing schools for six years.

Parent-trigger isn’t a first course of action, and it’s not used to solve small problems. It’s a law families can rely on to bring about change when their children are trapped in a school that isn’t meeting their kids’ needs. I’ve met a fair number of parents whose sons and daughters are assigned to such schools and it’s truly heartbreaking. We can’t expect parents and kids to be patient while slow-moving reforms take root.

Parent-trigger laws, recently enacted in half a dozen states, allow parents of children at a chronically failing school to petition for immediate, transformative changes. Districts are then required to implement those changes if more than half of parents sign the petition. I’ve been involved in plenty of schools as a mother, teacher, and administrator, and I can tell you that getting half of the parent body to agree on something isn’t a low bar.

[See the U.S. News Best High Schools.]

Parents can select from a set of options such as turning to a public charter operator for help with the overhaul, bringing in new staff, or closing the school and sending the students to better-performing schools nearby. Other changes might result in new curricula or longer days. Each of these has been defined by the Department of Education as sound turnaround options for failing schools. Parents are responsible for choosing the changes, not for running the school once a plan has been established.

Many, like me, see this as a civil rights issue. Far too often, chronically failing schools—the ones that are subject to parent-trigger laws—serve poor and minority communities. These schools, if left unchanged, will perpetuate achievement gaps between minority students and their wealthier, white peers. No child should have to attend such a school, and as concerned citizens we have a special responsibility to close the unconscionably large learning gaps in our country. Poverty can present huge challenges in our schools—I’ve seen this firsthand—but with the right supports in place, all children can learn at high levels.

When we’re having conversations in this country about how to improve schools in high-needs communities, people say we need to encourage more parental involvement. Well, parent-trigger is a way in which parents are seeking to be involved in their kids’ education and serve as advocates for them. It may not be a traditional form of parental involvement, such as helping with a fundraiser, but we shouldn’t limit what form parental involvement should come in.

[See the U.S. News Best STEM Schools.]

Of course, I’m not saying that parent-trigger laws offer some sort of silver bullet solution that will fix all of the problems our schools are facing. We also need to ensure that all of our kids have great teachers, and must ensure those teachers are supported and rewarded for their hard work. We also need excellent principals, more educational choices for families, and better stewardship of our public resources. If we bring about these kinds of reforms and include parent-trigger as one tool, then we will be well on our way toward building the kind of world-class education system we all want for our kids.


Oct 082012

Say hello to Connecticut’s new School Performance Indicator system.

In spring 2012, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) applied for flexibility from certain requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB )of 2001.

On May 29, 2012, the CSDE received approval from the U.S. Department of Education.  The approved waiver application establishes a new accountability system for Connecticut and replaces the  annual yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB with  new CT-designed annual performance targets.  The new system also replaces the  NCLB sanctions for schools and districts with CT-determined interventions.   In simple terms, the academic bar has been raised, in exchange for Connecticut’s release from NCLB  guidelines and in anticipation of the transition that the state will experience when the new Common Core State Standards and associated testing take effect in 2014-15.

Some of the major changes between the NCLB legislation and Connecticut’s new performance indicators include:

  • Under NCLB the target was Proficient -> the new target is Goal
  • Under NCLB only math and reading counted -> the new target looks at math, reading, writing and science
  • Under NCLB the state focused on capturing progress from Basic to Proficient -> the new targets count progress between all levels
  • Under NCLB school progress was only measured by standardized test scores -> the new targets also measure high school graduation rates

As with any new state education accountability system, its complicated, but the takeaway is that the academic bar is being raised.

For more information click on the presentation  below that was presented at both the District Data Management Team and Board of Education meetings this month.

School Performance Indicators 2012 testing

For more information about Connecticut’s Accountability System, you can go on the State Department of Education website:

http://www.sde.ct.gov and Go to Quick Links and select:  Elementary and Secondary Education Act


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 )