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Apr 072013
 

Education Committee Makes Changes to Education Funding in Governor’s Proposed Budget 

The Education Committee approved a substitute for H.B. 6357 (“An Act Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education”) on March 28, 2013. The bill makes changes to a number of provisions in the original proposal. The following are some key changes.

  • Modifies the proposed ECS formula
  • Changes the weighting in the wealth calculation to weigh property wealth more heavily than income wealth
  • Reduces the proposed foundation amount from $11,754 to $11,525
  • Shifts some funding to the 10 lowest-performing districts
  • Eliminates the PILOT: State-Owned Property grant from the ECS account. This would be the first step in restoring the PILOT program to its current state.
  • Restores the public school transportation grant

Attached are updated town-by-town estimates of the ECS grant based on the Education Committee bill. The bill has been referred to the Appropriations Committee, which has a deadline of April 23.

13-34 Ed Comm Changes to HB 6357

Jul 282012
 

ConnCAN is a state-wide advocacy  organization located in New Haven, Connecticut that helps to provide a platform for Connecticut citizens to effectively speak up for kids.

Without the right political climate, great schools will continue to elude Connecticut’s children.  In order to close Connecticut’s gaping achievement gap, and raise academic standards, a new ethos of reform must permeate state government, the education establishment, and the wide community of citizens.

REd  APPLES is proud to be part of ConnCAN’s results-oriented advocacy campaigns that includes:

  • Research & Policy. ConnCAN’s original reports and briefs provide the in-depth analysis of public education in Connecticut that is the foundation for our policy recommendations. Our online tools, such as school report cards, which assign a letter to grade to every public school in the state, and the SmartChoices website, which provides a simple, user-friendly guide for navigating Hartford’s all-choice public school system, serve as essential resources for parents and help drive informed school choices.
  • Communications & Mobilization. ConnCAN creates informed citizens with a commitment to common sense education reform through a combination of media work, electronic communications and social networking, publications, on-the-ground community organizing, partnerships with like-minded civic and community groups and events. Then, we make it easy for Connecticut’s growing cadre of education reform advocates to take meaningful and impactful action through our e-advocacy system.
  • Advocacy for Policy Change. Grounded in our research and policy work, ConnCAN’s expert staff teams with our citizen advocates and key state officials to develop and enact concrete, meaningful education reforms through both legislative and administrative action.
Click below to view ConnCan’s efforts last year and  how REd APPLES was involved.

conncan_2011_annual_report

May 302012
 

Below is the press release from Connecticut Council For Education Reform

In another landmark moment for education reform in Connecticut, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Governor Malloy announced that CT’s application for a waiver from requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Legislation (NCLB) was approved.

Under NCLB, progress was measured against the goal of having 100% of students in high poverty schools achieve proficiency by 2014, with corrective actions and the restricted use of federal funds for schools and districts that fell short.  The NCLB waiver will replace the state’s old system with one that allows the State Department of Education (SDE) to direct resources, interventions and supports to meet the specific needs of low-achieving groups of students, in every school and district throughout the state.  The waiver also requires the SDE to focus on supporting effective instruction and leadership, as well as establishing and supporting college- and career-readiness expectations.

When asked, Secretary Duncan cited five key components that were central to Connecticut’s successful application:

  1. Meaningful teacher evaluations;
  2. Increasing high quality early learning opportunities;
  3. Having the courage to intervene in and turnaround persistently low performing schools;
  4. Effective academic interventions to close learning gaps for every child in every school; and
  5. Fiscal transparency

These five components were all addressed in Senate Bill 458 An Act Concerning Education Reform – Connecticut’s landmark education reform bill that lawmakers, educators, and advocates worked together to pass in the 2012 session and which enabled Connecticut to have one of the strongest NCLB waiver applications in the country.

Delaware, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island were granted waivers alongside Connecticut.  A total of 19 states have been granted the flexibility to substantially reform their educational practices and accountability systems to improve achievement outcomes for all students.

To paraphrase Secretary Duncan’s opening remarks, Connecticut has finally put the needs of its students, its children, ahead of those of adults.  In doing so, we came together to change policy so that not one of our students will languish in a school that is not conducive to learning.

This is a significant and symbolic accomplishment that further lays the foundation for the transformation of Connecticut’s education system.

Secretary Duncan’s press release can be found here.

A fact sheet on Connecticut’s waiver application can be found here.

May 092012
 

This week, Connecticut legislators in both the Senate and House  voted in favor of  Governor Dannel Malloy’s wide-ranging education reform bill SB 458 (formerly SB 24.)  Mired in controversy from the start and perhaps a bit  ambitious given the laundry list of reforms, a compromise was finally reached.

REd APPLES  leadership provided testimony in support of the bill last February and have strongly advocated with local state representatives to support the bill   SB 24 Op-Ed  as Norwalk stands to benefit from a better evaluation process and improvements in reading instruction.

Below is ConnCAn’s high level summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the compromise bill.

High Level Summary of SB 458 (formerly SB 24)

5/8/12, 2:30 pm

SB 458, An Act for Educational Reform, is close to the original bill proposed by Governor Malloy on February 8 and presents a significant step forward for systemic, comprehensive reform. This brief summary presents strengths, weaknesses and items to keep an eye on. A more detailed ConnCAN analysis of the bill is forthcoming.

Strengths of SB 458

  • Reading by Grade 3: Establishes a pilot program to enhance literacy instruction in grades k-3.
  • School Turnarounds: Creates a Commissioner’s Network to intervene in up to 25 of lowest performing schools over the next 3 years.   High-performing non-profit partners (such as charter school operators) can run up to six of the 25 schools.  The Commissioner will have the ability to conduct impact bargaining, opening current collective bargaining agreements.
  • State-Authorized Charter Schools: Increases per pupil state charter funding to $10,500 in 2012-13, $11,000 in 2013-14, and $11,500 for 2014-15 (up from current $9,400).  Charter funding is now included in the state’s ECS funding statute.
  • Locally Authorized Charter Schools: Provides locally authorized charter schools with $500,000 start up grants and $3,000 per pupil in additional funding from the state.
  • Educator Quality: Requires annual educator evaluations, rating all teachers and administrators as exemplary, proficient, developing, and below standard.  Establishes a pilot of the evaluation system in 8-10 districts to build legitimacy of system as it moves to scale.
  • Teacher Tenure: Requires that teacher tenure be earned based on effective practice, with “ineffectiveness” added as a criteria for dismissal.  Also streamlines the termination process for ineffective or incompetent educators.
  • School Finance: Creates a common chart of accounts for all local or regional boards of education, regional educational service centers, charter schools, or charter management organizations.  System will be online by June 2013.
  • School Finance: Creates conditional funding for a set of Alliance Districts and Education Reform Districts.  The lowest-performing districts using the new accountability measures will only get funds if they meet certain reform conditions established by SDE.

Weaknesses of SB 458

  • Teacher Certification: No connection between educator evaluation and certification.  Continued requirement for a subject-area master’s degree for upper-level certification.  Eliminated proposed “master teacher” status in certification.
  • Educator Quality: Nothing on last in/first out layoffs (LIFO) or forced placement/bumping. Potentially insufficient incentives to recruit top teachers to highest-need schools.
  • School Finance: In Common Chart of Accounts, all entities (including charter schools) to disclose the receipt of revenue and donations of cash and real/personal property in the aggregate totaling $500 or more.

Items to Keep an Eye On

  • School Turnarounds: Could result in process- heavy requirements. Will need to make sure the commissioner has the authority he needs and that reforms don’t get bogged down.
  • Charter Schools: Gives preference to charter applications focused on English language learner (ELL) students, with two of the first four new state-approved charters requiring an ELL focus.
  • Charter Schools: Funding for state-authorized charter schools will now move from state, through locality, to the charter school.  Will need to ensure that districts pay the charter funds on time and in full.   Also need to ensure that future changes to ECS funding will not have a negative impact on state charter funding and that future efforts do not scale back the funding escalation.

 

To view the entire bill click here:  Education Reform Bill 458

 

 

Apr 052012
 
Norwalk Town Hall Meeting about Education with Governor Malloy next Tuesday…
Governor Malloy has been touring the state to engage in an active dialogue with people from various communities in Connecticut about education. Please join us for an upcoming town hall meeting.

 

Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Time: 7:00-8:00pm

Place: West Rocks Middle School, 81 West Rocks Road, Norwalk, CT

ITINERARY

 

6:15 pm  Doors will open to the public.
6:15-6:45pm Public may sign up to ask questions via a lottery system. There will be a table out front where people may sign up to speak and add their names to the lottery. All entries must be submitted by 6:45pm to be considered.
6:45pm Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia will draw and announce the names of those who will be able to address the Governor.
6:50pm The Mayor will introduce the Lt. Governor who will review the rules for the discussion and act as facilitator.
7:00pm The Mayor will introduce the Governor.
7:00 – 8:00pmThe Governor will commence the dialogue. 

 

Click here to read what’s recently happened to education bill SB-24


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

 

Apr 022012
 

The following article appeared in  yesterday’s  Sunday Edition of The Hour.   Both city and state representatives, along with NEF, the PTOC and Red Apples have continued to voice concerns over the inherent flaws in the state’s current Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.   Representative Gail Lavielle, even went so far as to propose an amendment to correct the formula, which penalizes communities such as Norwalk, with purportedly high grand list property values but low median income.

Below is the article:

Changes to ECS formula proposed, failed, but scored a win

By MATT COYNE Hour Staff Writer

 

NORWALK — While the amendment to change the Education Cost Sharing formula failed, its sponsor is scoring it a victory in Norwalk’s fight to get equitable funding.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle’s, R-143, amendment would have allowed cities with a significant difference between its net grand list and its median income to decrease by 10 percent the net grand list’s value in the formula’s calculation.

“I thought there was good discussion around it and it has been flagged as an important issue,” Lavielle said. “And from that point of view I’m pleased we had this discussion. I think we’ve put Norwalk’s ECS issue on the radar screen.”

Critics of the current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula say the weight of the grand list negatively affects cities with high property values and low median incomes, Norwalk included. That disparity makes various cities and towns seem more affluent than they already are. Lavielle called Norwalk’s lack of ECS?funding a “severe and persistent inequity.”

In her amendment, any town in the top 25 percent in property values, but in the bottom 50 percent in median income would be available fro the 10 percent deduction. According to Lavielle, this would raise Norwalk’s ECS funding from $10 million to $19 million.

There was some vocal opposition to the amendment from, most scathingly from Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-18, who said it would “artificially reduce the wealth of some communities” who have demonstrated their ability to pay through its net grand list and it “runs directly counter to the dictates of Horton v Meskill” the court case that established ECS?funding.

State?Sen. Toni Nathaniel Harp, D-10, said the amendment raised a good point.

“I do think that Rep. Lavielle … (has) pointed out one of the dichotomies that exists in Connecticut,” Harp said “It really is kind of a difficult conundrum that we’re in as a state.”

Harp said she did not believe that the disparity should be fixed through ECS?formula changes but did feel “we have an obligation to do something about it.”

Lavielle proposed the amendment during discussion of HB 5014, a bill which contains adjustments to the biennial budget during a meeting of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.

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