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Jun 302012
 

With the passage of the SB 458 this spring, one of the strengths in the bill is the new legislative language regarding the need to  improve student reading and literacy BY 3rd GRADE.  With that in mind, we thought it beneficial to benchmark the reading scores of  Norwalk’s 12 elementary schools.  While a score of proficient had been an acceptable standard, with Connecticut’s recent promise of reform and federal government waiver of the No Child Left Behind legislation, the real objective for Connecticut’s educators will be the need to be raise the bar and focus on getting students reading at GOAL LEVEL in order to be considered to be on grade level.

Below are the last 3 years of 3rd Grade CMT Data:

2011 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

2010 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

2009 3rd Grade CMT Scores By Elementary School

Jun 302012
 

Red Apples received the following letter from BoE Chairman Jack Chiramonte and we were asked to publish it.  Red Apples will publish signed letters expressing  different or opposing points of view, so long as they are polite, civil and stay on point.     

 

Once again, I look at the editorials in the Hour and am amazed at the misinformation that is in our community concerning the Board of Education Budget.  I offer this editorial to the community to which I serve.  While the thoughts are mine, and may be shared by other board members, the facts are just that – Facts.

After several meetings of the BOE, the Common Council, the BET and the Joint Services Committee, I still hear about the 4 million dollars shortfall in the insurance reserve fund as being mysterious, conspiracist, sneaky etc.   Apparently people like Peter Berman can’t grasp the facts, since they can’t report it correctly and prefer to witch hunt for their own political reasons.

Each year, the BOE allocates what it’s told is needed to cover a variety of accounts in our budget.  If we are told $25 million is required for health benefits & insurance, then we budget just that amount into that account.  However, there are accounts that are very fluid.  In other words, we have to guess-timate what we think will be enough for that year for that particular account.  It’s very much like the City trying to budget for snow removal.  If we get a light winter, then that account is left with a surplus, if it is average, we may have just enough.  If we get a heavy season of snowfalls, then the City finds itself short.  That is exactly how it is for Special Education for the BOE. For example, if a special needs child moves into our City, we are required by law to educate that child.  That might entail sending that child to a program in a different district that we have to pay for.  We also have to pick the fees for transportation, nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. for that child.  Obviously, it is very easy for this account to go into a shortfall.  Apparently, when this special education account, and other accounts, went into a shortfall, monies were taken from the $25 million insurance account to pay off those shortfalls. Then when the money was needed to payback this account, it was drawn from this insurance reserve fund.  Apparently, this has been the practice for many years.

The BOE is audited every year.  Both the City’s Finance officer Tom Hamilton and the BOE’s, Elio Longo have stated that an audit would NOT of found this problem.  It was Elio Longo that found this problem and has been praised by all for his diligent work.  Every dollar was accounted and spent for proper bills.  No money was missing or misappropriated!  The drawing of monies from the insurance reserve was done for several years before Mr. Elio Longo’s arrival to this district by people who are no longer with the district.   It was Mr. Longo who found it, reported it and took measures to make sure it will not happen again.

It turned out that we weren’t really short $4 million for this account as first reported.  There were other funds that had not yet been accounted and added back to this fund.  It actually was a 2.6 million deficit to the insurance reserve account, not 4 million.  However, we also had a shortfall of 1.4 million in our Special Education account, which when added in, gave us a 4 million shortfall.

Now, some ask “Why didn’t we allocate more money for Special Ed?  As I said, we have to guess-timate this account.  We allocated very conservatively because if we had budgeted more, we would of cut last years budget of staff & programs by that same amount.  If we added 2 million to the Special Ed account last year, then we would of had to cut that 2 million in staff & programs on top of what we cut last year.  And you remember, we had already had steep cuts to personnel and programs.

What’s the answer?

If it takes $8 to $10 million each year, just to keep what we had in the schools the year before to the new year, how can we possibly keep up?   We CAN’T!   Over 85% of our budget is payroll, benefits and pensions, which rise year after year, needing more money then we get. If it takes $8 to $10 million additional dollars each year to keep what we have, and all we get is increases of $2, $3 or $4 million a year (one year we even got a ZERO,) how can anyone expect to keep our heads above water?

Eventually  WE CAN’T.

When I first got on the board 5 years ago, we started to cut the fat in then Superintendent Sal Corda’s inflated budgets, and we have been cutting  ever since.  We have gotten to the point where there is no more fat to cut.  We are now hitting the meat and bone of our educational system.  As I have stated countless times, WE ARE SEVERLY UNDERFUNDED BY THE STATE IN ECS (EDUCATIONAL COST SHARING) FUNDS.  Hartford thinks we are all rich in Fairfield county.  The ECS formula is antiquated (over 25 years old) and was never fair to us from the beginning.  While we only receive $956 dollars per students, the other districts in our group of “like districts” get  4, 5 and over 6 thousand plus per student!   Danbury which is as close a carbon copy of Norwalk with student size, economics and household income, receives over 25 million per year, while we only receive over 10 million per year!  I ask you, would we even be arguing if we had 15 million more right now for our schools?

NOW THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT:   The ECS committee will be in Bridgeport, July 12th for a public hearing.  We need everyone we can get to go to that meeting and tell that committee how unfairly Norwalk is treated by the ECS formula.   We need to ask them to come visit Norwalk!  This committee will give its final report this October.  I will be in touch with all PTO’s.  Please check with your  PTO for more information.  While this gives us hope for next years ECS funding, we still have this years budget to deal with on our own.

Now I have said this from the very beginning, “If we all shoulder the burden of these cuts together and if everybody contributes something, then we’ll all get through this together.  Well everybody has given….everybody EXCEPT the teachers union (NFT).

Quite frankly, I’m sick & tired of hearing the words  “Union Bashing” and “Anti-Teacher” if we ask the Teachers Union (NFT) to take a pay freeze for one year.  We know the wonderful job our teachers do and we very much appreciate them, but asking them to shoulder the burden along with everyone else is NOT being anti-teacher. We have all suffered in some financial way in this cruel economy.  Every other union in the City, BOE, and everywhere in the country has been asked to take a freeze and our teachers can take one too, and save their fellow teachers jobs.  Norwalk’s teachers have the second highest pay in the state and still would have one of the highest even if they took a freeze for one year.  I would think the NFT would want to poll its teachers over this crisis on how they feel about it.  I cant understand, If the NFT polls it’s teachers over which school calendar they prefer, then why wouldn’t it on an issue of such importance?

We all need to stand together as a community and ALL need to contribute to solving our problems.    Jack Chiramonte

 

Jun 302012
 

This past week, Connecticut’s State Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of teacher and administrator evaluation guidelines, now known as “Core Requirements”.  The Core Requirements, which were developed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) after almost two years of work, call for an unprecedented amount of feedback and support to be provided to teachers and school administrators and factor student performance into evaluations.

Teacher and Administrator Evaluation Process and Components

The approved Core Requirements lay the foundation for a comprehensive and standardized system for teacher and administrator evaluations based, in part, on student performance.

The teacher and administrator evaluation process will center around three annual conferences between a teacher or administrator and their evaluator: an initial goal-setting conference where the teacher or administrator meets with the evaluator to establish student learning objectives and goals, followed by a mid-year check-in to review the teacher or administrator’s progress toward their objectives and an end-of-year conference to review the teacher or administraror’s observed practice and evidence of student academic achievement, including a self-assessment.

For the first time in state history, districts must provide teachers and school administrators with professional development and growth opportunities based on their strengths and areas for improvement in relation to student learning needs, as identified through the evaluation process, and develop individualized improvement plans for teachers and administrators who receive a rating of developing or below standard.

Teachers will be evaluated on the following indicators:  

  • Student academic growth (45%)
    • Standardized test (22.5%)
    • A maximum of one standardized test and a minimum of one measure that is not a standardized test (22.5%)
  • Observation of teacher practice by administrator (40%)
  • Parent or peer feedback (10%)
  • Whole-school student learning indicator or student feedback (5%)

Administrators will be evaluated on the following indicators:

  • Student academic growth (45%)
    • Standardized test, including the School Performance Index (22.5%)
    • Two local indicators of student growth (graduation rates for high schools must be included) (22.5%)
  • Observation of administrator performance and practice (40%)
  • Stakeholder feedback (10%)
  • Teacher effectiveness outcomes (5%)

The evaluator will complete the evaluation process by rating the teacher’s performance on a 4-tiered rubric: Exemplary, Proficient, Developing and Below Standard.

Each district is responsible for defining effectiveness and ineffectiveness in relation to the indicators and ratings listed above.  A demonstration of effective practice will serve as the basis for granting teachers tenure and ineffectiveness can serve as grounds for dismissal beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Next Steps

The adoption of teacher and administrator evaluation guidelines marks an important step in the implementation of the landmark education reform bill (Senate Bill 458) passed in May.    Sixteen school districts have been approved to pilot the teacher and administrator evaluation Core Requirements in the upcoming school year.  Support will be provided by the State Department of Education and the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut will conduct an analysis of the program.  The goal of the pilot program is to work out any kinks in the Core Requirements before they are implemented statewide in the 2014-2015 school year.

CCER would like to recognize the members of PEAC and the State Board of Education for their hard work and commitment to ensuring that all students in Connecticut receive a high-quality education.  Stay tuned for updates and news as the State Board of Education, State Department of Education, and pilot districts begin to implement teacher and administrator evaluation systems based on the Core Requirements.

 

UPCOMING EDUCATION EVENTS:

Tuesday, July 10th

Achievement Gap

Task Force Meeting

9:30 AM in

Room 2600 of the LOB

Wednesday, July 1th

State Board of Education Meeting

8:30 AM in

Room 1D of the LOB

Jun 302012
 

With all of the controversy surrounding the budget talks and the $4M shortfall (which has now been partially attributed to overrun costs in the special education budget as well as insurance and benefits) we thought it beneficial to publish a review that was performed by the CREC on Norwalk’s Special Education Department in November, 2008.

The report examines and makes commendations and recommendations in the following areas:

  • Organizational Structure
  • Special Education Process
  • Communication
  • Compliance
  • Impact on Student Learning
  • Resource Allocation

Below is the report:

crecreport

Jun 232012
 

The 2012-13 education budget reconciliation process was extremely painful this year, as city officials and BoE grapple with doing more with less.  With employee and retiree insurance benefits and special education costs continuing to rise, the real cost of delivering a K-12 education has more than doubled over the last 40 years.   Student performance in the US lags significantly behind the rest of the world.  These trends show little sign of abating  ( at least for the time being.)  With that in mind, parents, teachers, administration, taxpayers and public officials need to get more efficient and effective about how K-12 educational services are delivered, preparing students for the world in which they will compete.

Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go?  By Margaurite Odden

Imagine if a school were to spend more per pupil on ceramics electives than core science classes. What if a district were to push more funding to wealthy neighborhoods than to impoverished ones? Such policies would provoke outrage. Yet these schools and districts are real.Today’s taxpayers spend almost $9,000 per pupil, roughly double what they spent 30 years ago, and educational achievement doesn’t seem to be improving. With the movement toward holding schools and districts accountable for student outcomes, we might think that officials can precisely track how much they are spending per student, per program, per school. But considering the patchwork that is school finance—federal block funding, foundation grants, earmarks, set-asides, and union mandates—funds can easily be diverted from where they are most needed.Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? examines education finance from the school’s vantage point, explaining how the varied funding streams can prevent schools from delivering academic services that mesh with their stated priorities. As government budgets shrink, linking expenditures to student outcomes will be imperative. Educational Economics offers concrete prescriptions for reform.Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? by Marguerite Roza, is available from the Urban Institute Press (ISBN 978-0-87766-764-3, paperback, 128 pages, $26.50)Reminder about six ideas from Odden book.Idea #1:  Most Advanced Placement (AP) programs are now available online at modest cost.  If money is tight offer AP courses in an online format.  This is not all that different from the idea of learning packets, originally developed for adult education and now used for high school students missing a few credits to graduate.Idea #2:  Rather than academically and artistically programs of questionable value based on the evidence, provide a $25 per pupil allocation to provide extra strategies for gifted and talented students.

Idea #3:  Research supports class-size reduction but only for Grades K-3.  The findings were clear.  The small class sizes — but not the regular classes with an instructional aide—did positively impact student achievement for all students and about twice that for students from low-income and minority backgrounds.  There is no similar research on class-size reduction in upper elementary, middle and high schools. 

Idea #4 The public also pressures schools to offer many elective courses; fun classes; student activities including sports; and so on.  To respond schools (including Norwalk High and Brien McMahon) often expand to seven or eight periods a day, an option that increases costs by 20-40% compared to a six-period day.  Further, because many elective classes are small and often taught by senior teachers, the cost per pupil can be four to five times the per pupil spending on core classes. Second to class size the mix of core and elective classes is the next largest draw on the education dollar. 

Idea #5:  Use effectiveness indicators to make tenure decisions about teachers and principals; take every action possible to make sure that only effective teachers and principals are given tenure from this point on.  If possible, push out tenure decision to a teacher’s fourth, fifth or sixth year in teaching, so more and more stable evidence is available for making that important decision.

Idea #6:  Instructional aides are endangered staff positions in this book as randomized trial research —the gold standard of research—shows they do not add value to student achievement.  

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:

http://teachercontracts.conncan.org/

 

Jun 172012
 

Keep Norwalk Vital, Save Norwalk’s Schools

– Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce and Norwalk Corporate Citizenship Alliance

Norwalk is a great place to live and work.  We know this, we live and work here.  Over the past 25 years, we have seen the reputation and vitality of Norwalk improve and grow. Witness the growth of SoNo, the influx and increase of businesses large and small, the thriving of arts, culture and entertainment.

But all of this is about to change due in large part to the lack of collaboration among those responsible for the health of the Norwalk Public Schools.  If Norwalk is to retain a vibrant public and corporate life in the future, it must improve and support our schools.  This is especially critical as the economy remains weak and our public schools await new wave of cuts.  The time has come for all groups to stop protecting their own interests and agendas and act for the future of our children and our town.

The superintendent has outlined dramatic cuts while still preserving many critical components of a successful district.  The Mayor and Board of Estimate & Taxation have agreed on a plan to help ease the $4 million dollar shortfall, saving even more.  But where is the Board of Education consensus and willingness to come together during a crisis?  Where is the teachers’ union? Where is the principals’ and administrators’ union?

What’s at stake? A strong and stable school system is vital to the economic well being of the city.  A good education ensures our children become productive members of society, reducing costs to taxpayers by keeping social service expenses down, such as welfare, crime fighting, intervention services, etc.  It’s a fact that a strong education system drives and keeps property values up.  Without robust schools, families will move away, or look elsewhere when searching for a new home in the area.  And it goes without saying that a well-trained workforce is critical to maintaining and enhancing Norwalk’s economy and reputation as a great place to do business.  The bottom line is that effective schools help to stabilize the city, increase property values, grow the tax base, support development, and improve Norwalk’s reputation overall.    Norwalk Public Schools work for the children of our community. Every day 11,000 children stretch their mind, work hard and learn essential skills to help them succeed.  This is in no small part to the valuable efforts of teachers and administrators who, in addition to teaching the fundamentals, instill in Norwalk’s children valuable life lessons and an excitement for learning.  We have seen the results in rising test scores and graduation rates.

But it’s time for us to remember that Norwalk Public Schools also work for all residents and business owners in Norwalk, with or without children in the school system.  It’s time we come together and work out solutions to provide for the common educational good of our community.

As a voice for the business and philanthropic community, we are encouraged by the leadership shown thus far by Board of Education members, the Superintendent, the Mayor and city officials who worked together to devise a repayment relief plan for the $4 million budget shortfall, sparing extreme cuts to the schools.  But this will not be enough to avert damage to our schools, and certainly not enough to continue the improvement we’ve seen in recent years.  We are asking all key stakeholders, including all Board of Education members, and unions to pull together, to think creatively, to act boldly and beyond self-interest to support the restoration of proposed cuts to our school system.   It’s time for Norwalk Public Schools, a district that is classified as “in need of improvement,” to be supported by all who benefit, regardless of specific agendas, and do what is right for the children and our community.


Jun 172012
 

In recent weeks, the following two op-eds were published by the  local Norwalk press, in an attempt to get the relevant stakeholders in Norwalk to look at the bigger picture impacting our K-12 public education.

 

Can K-12 Public Education Derive Any Lessons From the Private Sector By Lisa Thomson

The political grandstanding needs to STOP.  I haven’t heard any significant recommendations. Sadly, the proposed march is just a spectacle, distracting us from the real financial issues. It’s kind of hard not talk about collective bargaining when all but four employees in the public school system are part of one union or another.  It’s just the way public sector is structured. No one wants to criticize their local teacher or principal…but the system is broken!

There’s no conspiracy out there.  Simply put, healthcare costs and post retirements benefits are trumping the classroom. In our attempt to protect the classroom at all costs, we let our central operations and bookkeeping fall apart.  But the elephant in the room is that taxpayers are frustrated that public workers have better packages than the private sector.  It wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the fact that the taxpayer is struggling to pay his own rising healthcare premiums, let alone an educator’s.

Sadly, this budget fight is NOT about the kids, quality instruction or the classroom.  But it will impact them.

For 20 odd years, I worked at Lucent Technologies and Bell Labs, once the premier R&D manufacturing arm of AT&T, but it lost its way to more innovative Silicon Valley competitors and was sold to the French company Alcatel.  Another company we all are familiar with, GM had a cost structure out step with its competitors.  A government bailout and restructuring followed. The list is long and the industries varied: Blockbuster, Borders, Woolworths, Sears, Kodak are just a few common names of organizations that lost their way.

Can the private sector shed any light on the challenges we are facing in  K-12 Public education?   I think so.

Status Quo Organizations: Private companies that faltered lost their way because they resisted change.

K12 has also been slow to change.  Achievement in the US has been dropping compared to the rest of the world. Too many kids after 13 years in the system are not prepared for a vocation or college. 1 in 3 college students needs remedial assistance. This is the trend regardless of whether you live in Norwalk, a leafy suburb or private school. Engaged parents have combatted with tutoring and enrichment.

Cost Structure: Private companies failed because the public stopped buying their product.  These companies had to restructure, cut costs, and improve. Some went out of business.

K12 needs to get its costs in line with taxpayer’s wallets and deliver better outcomes.  4 out of 5 Norwalkers don’t have kids in the system, and years of tax increases have not improved student achievement. More money hasn’t made the system better.

Outside Influences:   Private companies ignored outside influences and in most cases, it was competition that forced them to change.

In K12, it’s the federal government that is trying to change things by releasing states from the No Child Left Behind legislation, in return for organizational reforms. Incentives like Race to the Top funding is driving state legislatures across the US, to introduce changes directed at improving K12 instruction via charters, magnets, performance evaluations, etc.  Educators can argue against the reforms, but they’re happening.

Ineffective Use of Technology:  Private companies fell behind in their respective technologies or failed in their  operational use of it.

Most of us came of age with the Dewey Decimal system, but our children have much more data at their fingertips. Studies reveal K12 students who received their education partially or fully online performed better, on average, than their peers who took the same course in a traditional class setting. One estimate predicts that half of all K12 classes will be taught online in the next decade. Policies prohibiting high school students from getting credit because the subject wasn’t taught by the school must change. Bended learning can and will 1) drive consistency in the classroom, 2) reduce costs and 3) differentiate learning for ALL students.

It’s time for those in leadership positions to stop telling half- truths to the press or at student functions. Norwalk faces a national not local political issue. Relentless attacks waged on the superintendent since her arrival in Norwalk, by some was for trying to bring consistency to 19 schools doing their own thing for over a decade.  Their resistance to change and accountability could have been MUCH better served our children by working to drive quality practices across classrooms and schools.

We’ve had 4 superintendents in 10 years and at some stage Norwalk must look within itself.  Political tactics that may have worked for the past 20 or 30 years in this town are coming to a close.  The money is NOT there.

The other night, as I listened to each school plea their case, I was reminded of my perusal through the various collective bargaining contracts and how there were no parameters for performance. Lots of arbitrary work rules about how staff-interact and no mention of communication or cooperation between elementary, middle and high schools. In fact, quite the opposite, each have very different terms and working conditions.  Ironic, when as a parent I bought into the 13 year plan for my child.

I wish that the grown-ups in town, regardless of political affiliation, collective bargaining position, or school would work together and stop the circus like atmosphere.  As a parent, I won’t be manipulated, as in past years, to pit one school, program or position over another. What’s happening in the economy isn’t fair –welcome to the club.


Is the Baby Boomer Generation of Pensions & Rising Healthcare Costs Trumping the Classroom? By Lisa Thomson

The head of the union can draw his line in the sand, but so long as the most ineffective educators (administration or teacher) are paid the same as the best with associated pension and healthcare benefits out of step with the private sector, the taxpaying public will continue to throw mud at K-12 and society will suffer.  So long as parents take no responsibility for what little Johnny does or doesn’t  do in the classroom, society suffers, and so long as an aging population doesn’t think that kids today deserve as good an education as they got 40 years ago…society suffers.

According to our children’s most authoritative source, Wikipedia, the US pension and health care crisis has been predicted for years, as our contractual obligations and resources set aside to fund them have been out of sync.  Shifting demographics since WWII, a lower ratio of workers per retiree and, retirees living longer and a lower birthrate have all contributed to this financial crisis.

We are now faced with a $500B shortfall in pensions for teachers across the US according to Time Money.  This is NOT an issue specific only to Norwalk.

The continued finger pointing in the press, comments and blogs without enumerating any helpful solutions is counter -productive, wastes energy and creates unnecessary panic.  Replacing politically elected volunteers with another set of politically elected volunteers or replacing a Superintendent who came from a highly functioning school district is not the answer either.

We’re in our 4th year of recession, and it’s beginning to look like the new reality.  Add a 20-25% drop in property values from the peak in 2005, nominal ECS support from the state compared to other municipalities and a 7.7% unemployment figure across the state and you have private sector, city and state struggling to pay its bills.

According to the 2010 census, Norwalk has a population of about 85,000 residents.  This consists of about 32,000 households, where 28% have children under the age of 18. The last census estimated there were about 9000 kids in the school system but we know that we have 11,000. If you divide the total number of households into the 5500 or so families in NPS, you have about 17% of the town using the public school system.  As one of those families using the system, I also have to accept responsibility for balancing the educational needs of the town with the money we spend.

Our $10M short-fall is not any one person’s fault nor can one person fix it!  This is not about a town not supporting education or its teacher and administrators.  This is a STRUCTURAL problem that is only going to get more painful if we don’t sensibly address the issue with all parties concerned.

There have been a number of solutions kicked around for years, but we knew that none of the solutions would satisfy EVERYBODY, so we collectively kicked the can down the road.  Taxpayers and parents have watched education and public services decline, all the while, their tax bills have increased.  Effective educators have understood these problems, but found lacking in the different stakeholder leadership any support to move beyond the status quo.

As they say, the rubber has hit the road, the kids are not going away and the coffers are stretched.  The time is now for all of us to start thinking outside the box in terms of how we move Norwalk education forward and effectively solve both this near term and the longer term crisis or the baby boomer generation can kiss their social security and pension good-bye when this current generation can’t get a job!  The ration of workers to retirees was 5:1 in 1960, 3:1 in 2009 and is projected to be 2:2.1 in 2030!

Here are some suggestions, but only if the collective leadership has the courage to implement by not letting a  good crisis go to waste:

  • Close an elementary school and beef  up literacy in Grades K-3
  • Close a middle school and turn it into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math ) magnet
  • Investigate other relationships  like NCC for more on-line learning classes directed at high school students- reducing butts in seats
  • Turn Briggs into a good old fashioned vocational school for those not wishing to go on to college – which incidentally doesn’t necessarily guarantee one a job anyway!

Folks need to stop finger pointing with generalities or looking for a smoking gun.  This community needs to come up with solutions folks…not rhetoric!

 

 

 

 

Jun 132012
 

Equalization aid grant amounts as taken from Educational Reform Bill 458.

T1

Town

Grant for Fiscal

Grant for Fiscal

T2

Year 2012

Year 2013

T3 Andover

2,330,856

[2,330,856]2,367,466

T4 Ansonia

15,031,668

[15,031,668] 15,571,383

T5 Ashford

3,896,069

[3,896,069] 3,931,796

T6 Avon

1,232,688

1,232,688

T7 Barkhamsted

1,615,872

[1,615,872] 1,654,360

T8 Beacon Falls

4,044,804

[4,044,804] 4,109,097

T9 Berlin

6,169,410

[6,169,410] 6,280,132

T10 Bethany

2,030,845

[2,030,845] 2,042,361

T11 Bethel

8,157,837

[8,157,837] 8,228,760

T12 Bethlehem

1,318,171

[1,318,171] 1,318,800

T13 Bloomfield

5,410,345

[5,410,345] 5,614,895

T14 Bolton

3,015,660

[3,015,660] 3,038,788

T15 Bozrah

1,229,255

[1,229,255] 1,242,936

T16 Branford

1,759,095

[1,759,095] 1,824,612

T17 Bridgeport

164,195,344

[164,195,344] 168,599,571

T18 Bridgewater

137,292

137,292

T19 Bristol

41,657,314

[41,657,314] 43,047,496

T20 Brookfield

1,530,693

[1,530,693] 1,545,179

T21 Brooklyn

6,978,295

[6,978,295] 7,058,407

T22 Burlington

4,295,578

[4,295,578] 4,354,540

T23 Canaan

207,146

[207,146] 209,258

T24 Canterbury

4,733,625

[4,733,625] 4,754,383

T25 Canton

3,348,790

[3,348,790] 3,421,074

T26 Chaplin

1,880,888

[1,880,888] 1,893,247

T27 Cheshire

9,298,837

[9,298,837] 9,376,495

T28 Chester

665,733

665,733

T29 Clinton

6,465,651

[6,465,651] 6,502,667

T30 Colchester

13,547,231

[13,547,231] 13,723,859

T31 Colebrook

495,044

[495,044] 506,256

T32 Columbia

2,550,037

[2,550,037] 2,563,631

T33 Cornwall

85,322

85,322

T34 Coventry

8,845,691

[8,845,691] 8,918,028

T35 Cromwell

4,313,692

[4,313,692] 4,423,837

T36 Danbury

22,857,956

[22,857,956] 24,554,515

T37 Darien

1,616,006

1,616,006

T38 Deep River

1,687,351

[1,687,351] 1,711,882

T39 Derby

6,865,689

[6,865,689] 7,146,221

T40 Durham

3,954,812

[3,954,812] 3,986,743

T41 Eastford

1,109,873

[1,109,873] 1,116,844

T42 East Granby

1,301,142

[1,301,142] 1,349,822

T43 East Haddam

3,718,223

[3,718,223] 3,765,035

T44 East Hampton

7,595,720

[7,595,720] 7,665,929

T45 East Hartford

41,710,817

[41,710,817] 43,425,561

T46 East Haven

18,764,125

[18,764,125] 19,253,992

T47 East Lyme

7,100,611

[7,100,611] 7,132,157

T48 Easton

593,868

593,868

T49 East Windsor

5,482,135

[5,482,135] 5,650,470

T50 Ellington

9,504,917

[9,504,917] 9,649,604

T51 Enfield

28,380,144

[28,380,144] 28,810,492

T52 Essex

389,697

389,697

T53 Fairfield

3,590,008

3,590,008

T54 Farmington

1,611,013

1,611,013

T55 Franklin

941,077

[941,077] 948,235

T56 Glastonbury

6,201,152

[6,201,152] 6,415,031

T57 Goshen

218,188

218,188

T58 Granby

5,394,276

[5,394,276] 5,477,633

T59 Greenwich

3,418,642

3,418,642

T60 Griswold

10,735,024

[10,735,024] 10,878,817

T61 Groton

25,374,989

[25,374,989] 25,625,179

T62 Guilford

3,058,981

3,058,981

T63 Haddam

1,728,610

[1,728,610] 1,776,625

T64 Hamden

23,030,761

[23,030,761] 23,913,747

T65 Hampton

1,337,582

[1,337,582] 1,339,928

T66 Hartford

187,974,890

[187,974,890] 192,783,001

T67 Hartland

1,350,837

[1,350,837] 1,358,660

T68 Harwinton

2,728,401

[2,728,401] 2,760,313

T69 Hebron

6,872,931

[6,872,931] 6,969,354

T70 Kent

167,342

167,342

T71 Killingly

15,245,633

[15,245,633] 15,625,767

T72 Killingworth

2,227,467

[2,227,467] 2,237,730

T73 Lebanon

5,467,634

[5,467,634] 5,523,871

T74 Ledyard

12,030,465

[12,030,465] 12,141,501

T75 Lisbon

3,899,238

[3,899,238] 3,927,193

T76 Litchfield

1,479,851

[1,479,851] 1,508,386

T77 Lyme

145,556

145,556

T78 Madison

1,576,061

1,576,061

T79 Manchester

30,619,100

[30,619,100] 31,962,679

T80 Mansfield

10,070,677

[10,070,677] 10,156,014

T81 Marlborough

3,124,421

[3,124,421] 3,171,682

T82 Meriden

53,783,711

[53,783,711] 55,561,122

T83 Middlebury

684,186

[684,186] 714,234

T84 Middlefield

2,100,239

[2,100,239] 2,132,776

T85 Middletown

16,652,386

[16,652,386] 17,449,023

T86 Milford

10,728,519

[10,728,519] 11,048,292

T87 Monroe

6,572,118

[6,572,118] 6,592,969

T88 Montville

12,549,431

[12,549,431] 12,715,670

T89 Morris

657,975

657,975

T90 Naugatuck

29,211,401

[29,211,401] 29,846,550

T91 New Britain

73,929,296

[73,929,296] 76,583,631

T92 New Canaan

1,495,604

1,495,604

T93 New Fairfield

4,414,083

[4,414,083] 4,451,451

T94 New Hartford

3,143,902

[3,143,902] 3,167,099

T95 New Haven

142,509,525

[142,509,525] 146,351,428

T96 Newington

12,632,615

[12,632,615] 12,895,927

T97 New London

22,940,565

[22,940,565] 23,749,566

T98 New Milford

11,939,587

[11,939,587] 12,080,862

T99 Newtown

4,309,646

[4,309,646] 4,338,374

T100 Norfolk

381,414

381,414

T101 North Branford

8,117,122

[8,117,122] 8,225,632

T102 North Canaan

2,064,592

[2,064,592] 2,091,544

T103 North Haven

3,174,940

[3,174,940] 3,295,851

T104 North Stonington

2,892,440

[2,892,440] 2,906,538

T105 Norwalk

10,095,131

[10,095,131] 10,672,607

T106 Norwich

32,316,543

[32,316,543] 33,341,525

T107 Old Lyme

605,586

605,586

T108 Old Saybrook

652,677

652,677

T109 Orange

1,055,910

[1,055,910] 1,107,407

T110 Oxford

4,606,861

[4,606,861] 4,667,270

T111 Plainfield

15,353,204

[15,353,204] 15,560,284

T112 Plainville

10,161,853

[10,161,853] 10,346,140

T113 Plymouth

9,743,272

[9,743,272] 9,876,832

T114 Pomfret

3,092,817

[3,092,817] 3,130,001

T115 Portland

4,272,257

[4,272,257] 4,347,783

T116 Preston

3,057,025

[3,057,025] 3,077,693

T117 Prospect

5,319,201

[5,319,201] 5,377,654

T118 Putnam

8,071,851

[8,071,851] 8,251,714

T119 Redding

687,733

687,733

T120 Ridgefield

2,063,814

2,063,814

T121 Rocky Hill

3,355,227

[3,355,227] 3,481,162

T122 Roxbury

158,114

158,114

T123 Salem

3,099,694

[3,099,694] 3,114,216

T124 Salisbury

187,266

187,266

T125 Scotland

1,444,458

[1,444,458] 1,450,305

T126 Seymour

9,836,508

[9,836,508] 10,004,094

T127 Sharon

145,798

145,798

T128 Shelton

4,975,852

[4,975,852] 5,146,279

T129 Sherman

244,327

244,327

T130 Simsbury

5,367,517

[5,367,517] 5,513,204

T131 Somers

5,918,636

[5,918,636] 5,975,301

T132 Southbury

2,422,233

[2,422,233] 2,518,902

T133 Southington

19,839,108

[19,839,108] 20,191,195

T134 South Windsor

12,858,826

[12,858,826] 13,017,444

T135 Sprague

2,600,651

[2,600,651] 2,632,445

T136 Stafford

9,809,424

[9,809,424] 9,930,162

T137 Stamford

7,978,877

[7,978,877] 8,899,110

T138 Sterling

3,166,394

[3,166,394] 3,211,166

T139 Stonington

2,061,204

[2,061,204] 2,079,926

T140 Stratford

20,495,602

[20,495,602] 21,072,199

T141 Suffield

6,082,494

[6,082,494] 6,183,966

T142 Thomaston

5,630,307

[5,630,307] 5,712,479

T143 Thompson

7,608,489

[7,608,489] 7,674,408

T144 Tolland

10,759,283

[10,759,283] 10,866,063

T145 Torrington

23,933,343

[23,933,343] 24,402,168

T146 Trumbull

3,031,988

[3,031,988] 3,195,332

T147 Union

239,576

[239,576] 241,460

T148 Vernon

17,645,165

[17,645,165] 18,316,776

T149 Voluntown

2,536,177

[2,536,177] 2,550,166

T150 Wallingford

21,440,233

[21,440,233] 21,712,580

T151 Warren

99,777

99,777

T152 Washington

240,147

240,147

T153 Waterbury

113,617,182

[113,617,182] 118,012,691

T154 Waterford

1,445,404

[1,445,404] 1,485,842

T155 Watertown

11,749,383

[11,749,383] 11,886,760

T156 Westbrook

427,677

427,677

T157 West Hartford

16,076,120

[16,076,120] 16,996,060

T158 West Haven

41,399,303

[41,399,303] 42,781,151

T159 Weston

948,564

948,564

T160 Westport

1,988,255

1,988,255

T161 Wethersfield

8,018,422

[8,018,422] 8,313,255

T162 Willington

3,676,637

[3,676,637] 3,710,213

T163 Wilton

1,557,195

1,557,195

T164 Winchester

7,823,991

[7,823,991] 8,031,362

T165 Windham

24,169,717

[24,169,717] 24,933,574

T166 Windsor

11,547,663

[11,547,663] 11,854,648

T167 Windsor Locks

4,652,368

[4,652,368] 4,904,674

T168 Wolcott

13,539,371

[13,539,371] 13,685,912

T169 Woodbridge

721,370

721,370

T170 Woodbury

876,018

[876,018] 895,683

T171 Woodstock

5,390,055

[5,390,055] 5,453,688

Jun 132012
 

Testimony of Mark Robinson, June 6, 2012

PLANS / GOALS

Where’s the plan?  Before decisions are made on the budget, there should be a planning document that identifies goals and priorities.

  • The primary goal should be improving the academic performance of our students.
  • There are multiple ways to measure this.  Some simple ones include:

i.    reading skills of elementary students, measured as below grade level, at grade level, and above grade level;
ii.   students completing Algebra 1 in eighth grade; and
iii.  students completing Algebra 2 by the end of eleventh grade.

In Connecticut, CMT results are reported for five levels:  below basic, basic, proficient, goal, and advanced.

  • Goal means grade level, and goal is the standard the state of Connecticut uses for its annual report on the schools.
  • Proficient is less than goal; it exists for the purpose of satisfying No Child Left Behind rules (from which Connecticut schools are now exempt).
  • Note: Other tests (some national tests and standardized tests in some other states) – use “proficient” to mean grade level, but that’s not what it means for the Connecticut CMTs.

Currently, we have the District Improvement Plan, but it seems inadequate as a planning document.

  • With regard to student performance, it has a single recurring goal– getting more students to score at least “proficient” on the CMT standardized tests.
  • Proficient has a special meaning.
  • The District Improvement Plan does not have other standards for measuring student achievement.

We also have a plan for converting over to the Common Core State Standards.

  • This is a state requirement that we are required to implement.
  • Implementing a required framework is not the same as creating a plan for improving student achievement with measurable goals and a robust curriculum.
  • To repeat—we should have a plan that declares academic excellence is our goal, one that includes measures of whether and how well we are improving student academic achievement, at all levels.

 BUDGET

While the budget can be approved for a single year, the budget request should include a projection for the two years that follow.

  • We might make different budget decisions.
  • This would be even more helpful now, since we apparently are taking $2 million from the next following year.
  • Discussion of the following year could be a useful step in developing consensus on what the numbers should be.
  • The budget presentation should take a different form.
  • The budget numbers should be in an Excel spreadsheet, with line reference numbers.
  • The explanatory text should be presented as a supporting document, separate from the budget numbers.
  • If there is a range of uncertainty associated with some numbers (for example, fuel costs or contributions for benefit plans), then those uncertainties should be disclosed.
  • The budget “reconciliation” recommendation should include not merely proposed changes, but also what the actual revised budget will be.
  • The reconciliation proposed by the Superintendent on Friday, June 1st uses groupings and labels that are different from the budget request, which makes it difficult to understand what the resulting budget will be.

An earlier newspaper report indicated that employees were kept on the payroll, even though budget reductions required positions be eliminated, and that this caused perhaps $2 million of the problem now before us.

  • Highly unlikely that senior management in Norwalk Public Schools did this by accident.
  • What happened?  Will anyone be held accountable, and if so, how?
  • We should be cautious about, and try to minimize, approving contracts locking us into selected expenditures that go farther into the future than the budget projections do.

 READING AT NATHAN HALE

  • For seven years, Nathan Hale Middle School has had a special program to help students learn to read.
  • Every year there are more than 20 entering students who don’t know how to read.
  • Most of these students, but not all, are special ed or English language learners.
  • It uses the Lexia Read computer program to accelerate their learning, including Lexia that starts out in Spanish for ELL students.
  • NHMS also uses an approach much like System 44, to teach the children the 44 phonic sounds made with the 26 letters in the alphabet.
  • The NHMS approach is a sophisticated and based on data.
  • It has been a great success.
  • This program is not a secret.  The NPS Central Office has interviewed students and teachers and observed the program.  It has been written up in a magazine for superintendents in Connecticut, and schools from all over New England have come to look at and model this program.
  • The students in this learn-to-read program do not go to the regular two-period language arts class, until after they achieve sufficient reading ability.  Instead, they are taught to read.  After they achieve approximately a third-grade reading level, the teachers can “level text” the reading materials (that is, simplify some of the vocabulary words) and include these children in the regular language arts classes.
  • This year, about 85% of the students are minority (African-American or Latino), but four or five years ago, it was 70% white.
  • It is a pull-out program; it is not tracking.  Tracking is where you take children with low-level skills and you put them in all low-level classes.  That’s not what happens here; their other classes are the same.
  • It’s all based on data—who needs it, and how/when one exits it.  There is seven years of data.
  •  This year, there was a public accusation, from a citizen who does not have a child in the program, that NHMS practiced racial segregation.  The accusation concerned this program, and it was untrue and unfair.
  • There was a meeting, attended by Susan Marks, Tony Dadonna (the assistant superintendent), the NHMS principal, the citizen, and two associates of the citizen.  The citizen accused the principal of racial segregation.
  • At the end of March, Tony Dadonna instructed the principal to cut back the program—to end the pull-out program and to put these students immediately back in the regular two-period language arts classes.   He told the principal that what the principal was doing was illegal, that it was illegal to pull students out of class to teach them to read.  It was changed the next week.
  • People know what happened.  The faculty at NHMS is well aware of what happened, as are many in the PTO.
  • The principal has announced that he is leaving; he has been recruited to run a new magnet high school in Hartford.
  • So, the question I ask the Board of Education to address is—was Tony Dadonna right?  Was the pull-out program at Nathan Hale, designed to teach kids how to read, illegal?
  • If it is illegal, what actions are now required to change pull-out programs affecting all our schools, programs and children?
  • And what will be done for the projected 20+ students who will arrive next year who don’t know how to read?
  • Norwalk does not have a district-wide program at the elementary school level to help students like these catch up, so that they know how to read before they arrive at middle school; why not?
  • How is NPS going to ensure our children will meet the Common Core State Standards if the children can’t read at grade level and NPS cuts back programs like NHMS had?

MORE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR BOE MEMBERS

  • The members of the Board of Education are accountable to the voters on election day.
  • The board members could be held twice as accountable if their term of office was changed to two years from four years.
  • This would not be hard to do—about half the board members are elected on a city-wide basis, so they could be elected in even-numbered years, when we elect U.S. representatives.  The other members could be elected on odd-numbered years, using the existing voting districts.
  • We should change the [city charter] so that the term of office for BOE members is only two years.