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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 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

 

 

 

 

NorwalkPTO

Jan 312012
 

Last week, the largest teachers union in Connecticut, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) recommended a new three- tiered evaluation system with no single test score or indicator being used to assess student learning.  The group has been a strong advocate for teachers participating in the state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) that has been meeting for over a year.

Following are the weighted percentages for teacher evaluation guidelines:

  1. Multiple indicators of student learning will count as 45% of the evaluation. Half of that 45% weight will come from a standardized test, which would be either, the CMT, CAPT, or another valid, reliable test that measures student learning.
  2. Teacher performance and professional practice will be weighted at 40%.
  3. Other peer, student, and parent feedback will be weighted at 5% with professional activities counting for 10%.

Mary Loftus Levine, CEA executive director said, “It was a compromise by consensus, which was reached after many months of long, tough conversations.  “What the positive consensus shows is that all education stakeholders want the same results. And we and other members of PEAC are pleased to have developed a structure for a fair, reliable, and valid evaluation system with accountability for all. Student achievement is the overarching goal.”

CEA’s consensus is consistent with the goals set out by Governor Malloy and new Commission of Education Stefan Pryor, whereby the teaching profession is elevated, by holding everyone accountable, while producing a system that is fair, valid, reliable, and useful.

Teacher concerns still remain about how to define, implement, and include the “multiple indicators of student academic growth and development.”

The framework for the new CEA evaluation guidelines will be the basis for local school districts to go back and design local plans working with their local teachers unions.  District’s that determine they don’t have the capacity to design their own local plans can have the State Department of Education (SDE) provide a model or detailed template. Those districts that already have exceptional models, will be available to receive a waiver from the SDE.

PEAC is also working on administrator guidelines. CEA will share details as they are determined.

 

Copies of  the current evaluation process for Norwalk Public Schools administrators (NASA) and teachers (NFT) can be found on the Documents and Reports page of this website.

 

Jan 312012
 

The National Council On Teacher Quality has just released it 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, with the state of Connecticut receiving an overall grade of C- for its efforts in reform, ranking it 25th in the nation and ranking its reform progress as low when compared to other states.

The study has been primarily funded by: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gleason Family Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Joyce Foundation and George Gund Foundation.

However, the organization acknowledged that state education agencies remain their most important partners in their data collection effort, with their cooperation ensuring factual accuracy.  Every state formally received a draft of the Yearbook in July, 2011 for comment and correction, including Connecticut.  States also received a final draft of their reports a month prior to release. All but one state, responded their questions.

The 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook examines state data in 5 areas:

  • Delivering Well Prepared Teachers
  • Expanding the Teaching Pool
  • Identifying Effective Teachers
  • Retaining Effective Teachers
  • Exiting Ineffective Teachers

Click here to read the full report. stpy11_connecticut_report

Jan 192012
 

The South Norwalk Public Library will be hosting a book signing and wine and cheese reception on Saturday, January 21st from 3-4.30 pm at 10 Washington Street, South Norwalk.

Author Peg Tyre will discuss and answer questions about her recently published book, The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve.   This book and her formerly published book, The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, will also be available for purchase.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Norwalk Education Foundation, REd APPLES, Stew Leonard’s and the Norwalk Public Library System.

Registration is strongly suggested – please do not register via voicemail.

flyer – Peg Tyre Book Signing (2)

For more information or to register – call 203 899-2790 extension 2

 

Jan 182012
 

The Carver Center will be hosting its first Civic Engagement Youth Forum on Thursday, January 26, 2012, at 4:30PM at Brien McMahon High School, Norwalk, CT.

This first in a series of Youth Forums will address the issue of the Achievement Gap from the perspective of the youth themselves, perhaps the first time they have ever been asked in a serious way for their input on this pressing challenge.

Ali Reed of WTNH will serve as moderator. Ms. Reed previously reported for News 12 Connecticut and before that worked as a writer and editor for the U.S. news section of Foxnews.com. She also reported on camera for the site’s daily live news program, The Strategy Room, and was featured on Fox News Channel for her investigative reports.

Select high school students will constitute the Youth Leader Panel. Key area foundation executives, Norwalk Public School administrators, and other community and state leaders will serve as Listener Panel members. The “Listeners” will briefly offer their reactions, but more importantly, they will commit to honoring what they heard from the youth in their daily responsibilities.

The Carver Foundation of Norwalk, founded in 1938, reached nearly 5,000 individuals each year through community, educational, enrichment and recreational programs, including service learning, parent leadership, summer camp, spring and fall national college tours, and a winning basketball league. In addition to our busy community center and family support services, our free afterschool programs led by certified teachers, based within the Carver Center and Norwalk’s four middle and two high schools, reach 695 students with intense college–prep assistance.

Please join us!   Mind the Gap Forum Flyer

Adult Listening Panel confirmed: Dr. Susan Marks (Norwalk Public School Superintendent), Mike Barbis (Newly elected member of the Norwalk Board of Education),  Laura MaCargar (Youth Rights Media & The Perrin Family Foundation), Dorcas Blue (Fairfield County Community Foundation), Suzanne Brown Koroshetz (Principal at Brien McMahon High School), Dr. Lynne Moore (Principal at West Rocks Middle School), and Bruce Mellion (President Norwalk Federation of Teachers) Tentative

 

Novelette Peterkin, MBA

Executive Director

Carver Foundation of Norwalk, Inc.

7 Academy Street

Norwalk, CT 06850

Phone: (203) 838-4305 Ext. 103

Fax (203) 838-4197

www.carvercenterct.org

Blog: http://carverheroes.org/

 

Jan 102012
 

As the New Year begins, we wanted to reflect briefly on our efforts from last year, and remind everyone of the issues that continue to impact the entire Norwalk community, whether residents have children in the school district or not.

Throughout 2011, and during the election campaigns, REd APPLES was committed to highlighting major reform issues that impact Norwalk students. We did much of this through our informational website, which received over 25,000 hits in the last 6 months of the year. We attributed the volume to both the BoE and Common Council candidates boning up on the organizational and management issues that continue to plague education.  And, while  REd APPLES is not aligned with either political party, we believe that our continued presence at BoE meetings, the hosting of special events in the community, and placing relevant data on the website has helped raise the bar and heightened both political and community awareness to the issues.

As 2012 unfolds, REd APPLES welcomes a new Common Council and revitalized BoE focused on reform. However, we hope that the proposed 7.8% increase by the Superintendent is put through a rigorous and transparent litmus test and examines whether or not these increases are directed at improving student achievement, closing the achievement gap or increasing adult accountability.  Anything short of that, risks further jeopardizing the faith and confidence of the residents of Norwalk.

Sadly, the state of Connecticut failed to win up to $50M in Race to the Top federal grants, directed at boosting its early childhood education programs for 2012.  Commenting on Connecticut’s loss, Governor Malloy attributed it to a “lack of investment over the past decade meant we did not have the infrastructure in place, or have a well-developed or coordinated early learning system.” Looking forward to the 2012 Legislative Session that begins in February, Governor Malloy promised to put reform on the top of the State’s agenda.

On a local level, the BoE heads into contract negotiations with most collective bargaining units this spring and many of our state’s legislative issues have relevance here in Norwalk. So, with a pending legislative session and contract negotiations, we will continue to advocate for policies that favor:

  • Fair and actionable performance evaluation mechanisms for ALL educational staff that takes into account student achievement and explores professional alternatives like peer-to-peer evaluations and student longitudinal data (as opposed to absolute test scores) for BOTH principals and teachers.
  • Relevant and high quality professional development focused on identified district priorities that include but are not limited to literacy like the Connecticut Foundations In Reading Test
  • Collective bargaining guidelines that place a priority on multiple factors that impact the overall quality of administrative and teaching staff and not the performance blind policy of Last In First Out
  • A re-examination of the flawed ECS student funding formula and demand that the state increase its district accountability measures across Connecticut, ensuring that dollars spent are on students and not bureaucracy.
  • Improve Norwalk’s ability to use data effectively and to align resource allocation decisions with measureable goals

Our leadership team continues to remain committed to politely, persistently and publicly advocating for reform and hopes that our own politicians, in both political parties will do the same, finding the courage to reach across the aisle, so as to put Norwalk on a path to success, for the next generation, from both an academic and fiscal standpoint.

Over the course of this year, REd APPLES will continue to seek every opportunity to engage the community in conversations about education reform and so we want to hear from you. Contact us at redapples@redapplesnorwalk.org if you have any ideas about forums for public discourse and topics that we could be addressing. If you haven’t been one of the many recent visitors to the www.redapplesnorwalk.org website, please take a look, as we regularly add relevant material as it becomes available or is sent to us.

Finally, we want to thank everyone for their continued support, as we advocate for education reform here in the great City of Norwalk.

Sincerely,

The Red Apples Leadership Team

Emiley Aguilar, Sue Haynie, Bruce Kimmel, Jim McDonald, Kerry O’Neil, Lauren Rosato, Lisa Thomson, Susan Wallerstein,

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.

 

 

 

 

Jan 102012
 

Nine Questions    By Susan Wallerstein

Even before looking at the bottom line or % increase, policymakers, parents and the general public may find these nine questions useful in evaluating the overall effectiveness of the school system’s resource allocation plan as reflected in the budget.  An assumption here is that addressing these questions is a prerequisite to developing a budget which efficiently, effectively and transparently aligns resource allocation decisions with the school system’s goals and priorities.  Once the budget is finally approved by the BET, the Board should also engage stakeholders (parents, elected officials, school administration, etc.) in a public post mortem review toward the goal of continuously improving both the process and the budget book.

  1. Is there evidence that the administration and the Board have agreed in advance on a set of clear measurable goals for improving student performance as well as all other organizational functions?  Is the work of data teams and school governance councils reflected in the budget document?
  2. If yes, does the budget provide sufficient focus and detail about how resources (funding, staffing, time) are being allocated to achieve these goals? For example, if reading or professional development are priorities, is it possible to determine how much has been allocated to these priorities, both at the school and district levels? If not, why, as this should be in place before the administration develops a budget.
  3. Do line item and school/program narratives provide sufficient specific detail about how funds will be used as well as measurable goals associated with the spending plan?
  4. Given legal requirements and cost, have the Board and the administration reviewed special education data including but not limited to benchmarking identification by category and staffing models/delivery systems, etc. against comparable (DRG) districts and other relevant standards?
  5. Are budget assumptions about costs associated with operations functions e.g., utilities, transportation, etc. defined, supported, and aligned with other town departments including finance?  Related, is there evidence of efforts to contain if not reduce non-instructional costs?
  6. Is the relationship between enrollment and resource allocation e.g., staffing, funding, clear and consistent throughout the budget document?  Related, is the PreK-12 staffing model defined and bench-marked and are costs/savings associated with staff turnover provided?
  7. Are the narrative portions of the budget generally well written, clear and consistent throughout?  Related, is there consistency and integrity between the budget information and that available in the applications used to store and manage financial and other data e.g., personnel?
  8.  Is there evidence the budget was developed using a “level services” model; are all variances justified e.g., over/under funding, collective bargaining, and unfunded mandates?
  9. Is it possible to isolate costs associated with new initiatives, efficiencies, and efforts to reallocate existing resources?