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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 )




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?

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 202012

Today, ConnCAN released its Teacher Contract Database, an online interactive database providing unprecedented access to teachers’ contracts from 173 out of 174 local education agencies (LEAs), including traditional public school districts, regional districts, charter schools, and the state vocational-technical high school system.

This Teacher Contract Database represents the first time in state history that school boards, superintendents, teacher representatives, policymakers and community members will have a reliable statewide source for all things contract-related. This is the kind of transparency policy makers have been asking for.

For each contract, ConnCAN presents core information, including (among other things): union affiliation (CEA or AFT); number of teaching days; number of days without students; workday length; salary; compensated professional development days; reduction in force provisions; and evaluation procedures.

The ConnCAN Teacher Contract Database will allow users to access analyses of key contract provisions, district-to-district comparisons, and information on state trends and notable contract provisions.

We know that many, many teachers work much longer days than what is required in their contract. However, when disputes arise or reforms are sought, the contract is a document that guides decisions and work rules and we believe that we must, therefore, look closely at what these contracts stipulate.

The Database was inspired by a 2007 National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) effort creating a national teacher contract database for select cities, including New Haven and Hartford.


Click here to access the database:



May 212012

ConnCAN recently released its 2012 Field Guide to Education in Connecticut.  The report highlights the following data:

  • Who attends Connecticut’s public schools for 2010-11
  • District Data
  • Achievement Gap Rankings
  • Trends in k-12 including: full time employees, enrollment, spending, and NAEP scores
  • Competitive Stimulus Grants
  • Standardized Assessments (CMTs and CAPT scores)
  • 2011 Success Story Schools in CT (Jefferson Elementary and Roton Middle School made the lists)
  • Graduation Rates
  • Teacher and Administration Profiles
  • Teacher Prep Stats including: Foundations in Reading Test and dismissals
  • School Finance

Click the link below to access the report.


Apr 022012
The Connecticut Council For Education Reform takes aim against the excuse of poverty, as the excuse most often given by those opposing education reform in Connecticut.  Very interesting comparisons are drawn between our neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Below is an the from the Council dated 4/1/12 :

Today, we are taking a look at an argument frequently made in opposition to education reform: namely, that Connecticut’s achievement gap – which is the largest in the nation – is due to poverty, and therefore, the education system, and the adults within it, cannot be held responsible for providing a high-quality education to all students.While poverty and a lack of parenting are used as convenient scapegoats to explain the achievement gap in Connecticut, Massachusetts has skipped the blame game, and worked on addressing the issue instead.  In 2010, Massachusetts and Connecticut had almost exactly the same percentages of students who were low-income (34.2% in Massachusetts vs. 34.4% in Connecticut).  Nonetheless, on national math assessments in 2011, Massachusetts’ low-income 4th graders scored 2nd in the nation – while Connecticut’s low-income students scored 48th.  This difference in performance between Massachusetts’ low-income students and Connecticut’s equates to about 1.5 grade levels.

In fact, the low-income students in all of our neighboring states outperform Connecticut’s low-income students.  For instance, New Jersey’s low-income students, who make up 33% of their student population, ranked 14th on 4th grade national math assessments – again, as compared to Connecticut’s rank of 48th in the nation, and Massachusetts’s rank of 2nd.  Connecticut’s low-income students not only score below all of our neighboring states, but also score below states like Mississippi and Tennessee.

We think folks would be hard-pressed to argue that low-income students right over the border in Massachusetts or New Jersey face very different circumstances at home than the low-income students in Connecticut.  So, what actions have our neighboring states taken to address their achievement gaps that Connecticut hasn’t?  Put bluntly, they have adopted education reform policies very similar to the ones proposed in Governor Malloy’s original education reform bill.  They have adopted or implemented policies that evaluate teachers on the basis of student performance, that rank schools and districts within a tiered intervention framework, and that provide the Commissioner with the authority to intervene in the lowest performing schools and districts.

We cannot continue to blame the current state of education in Connecticut on poverty.  It’s time to make a change, and to stop pretending it can’t be done when other states with the same demographics as ours have already proven we can, and need to, do much better.  Governor Malloy’s original plan called for policies that would have improved our education system for both low-income students and their wealthier peers – who are also falling behind other states, we might add! (We’ll explore this more in our next blog post).  But the Governor’s plan has been severely diluted by the Education Committee’s approval of disappointing substitute language in Senate Bill 24.

We think it’s time to stop using the excuse that our schools can’t be held responsible for ensuring that low-income children learn and are held to high expectations.  We think it’s time to start holding our schools accountable for providing a high-quality education to all students – as all of our neighboring states have taken significant strides in doing.

If you agree, tell your elected official what changes you think are needed so all of Connecticut’s children are provided with the high-quality education they deserve.

 Thursday April 5th
Task Force Meeting on
English Language Learners
2:00pm in

Room 1C of the LOB


Sunday, April 8th
Connecticut Public Television
Airs Part 1 of our 3-Part documentary series:
“Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement”
10am on CPTV
(Airs again on April 13th at 8:30pm)


Monday, April 9th
Achievement Gap
Task Force Meeting
10:00am in

Room 1A of the LOB