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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.


Jul 212012

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is an established leader in developing and providing virtual K-12 education solutions to students nationwide. A nationally recognized e-Learning model, FLVS was founded in 1997 was the country’s first state-wide Internet-based public high school. In 2000, the Florida Legislature established FLVS as an independent educational entity with a gubernatorial appointed board. FLVS is the only public school with funding tied directly to student performance.

Coverage Area – Worldwide

FLVS is part of the Florida public education system and serves students in all 67 Florida districts, 49 states, and 57 countries. FLVS also serves students, schools, and districts around the nation and world through tuition-based instruction, curriculum provision, and training.

Course Offerings

FLVS offers 110+ courses—including core subjects, world languages, electives, honors, and 15 Advanced Placement courses. FLVS courses are accepted for credit and are transferable. Florida Virtual School is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and courses are NCAA approved. FLVS also offers AP Exam reviews in April, even for students who did not take the course through FLVS.


FLVS has over 1400 staff members who reside throughout Florida and beyond. All FLVS teachers possess a valid Florida teaching certificate and are certified specifically in the subject they teach. One hundred and twenty-five instructors are national board certified.

Student Enrollment

FLVS served over 122,000 students in 259,928 half-credit enrollments in the 2010-11 school year. Enrollment is open to public, private, and home school students. Students outside Florida enroll on a tuition basis.

Click here to visit their website: Florida Virtual School

Jul 152012

Below is a copy of the email sent to Stefan Pryor, Connecticut Commissioner of Education by REd Apples shortly thereafter hearing of Supt. Marks resignation:


Commissioner Pryor,

See the announcement below.

We had a $6M budget shortfall going into the 2012-13 school year, due primarily to employee salaries and benefits.  The number grew to $10M due to retiree healthcare benefits and Special Ed. When a $4M error was found that dated as far back as 2007-8.   BoE budgets keep getting slashed, despite tax increases each year and we get short-changed in the ECS formula.  We will be laying off about 90 staff this month.

Add to that- a quarter century of status quo union leadership of both the NFT Teachers’ Union and  NASA  Administrators’ union, not to mention out of control insubordinate school principals, and you have a city out of control.

After two years, our Superintendent, Dr. Marks just wanted her life back.  This was largely due  to a combination of incompetent and insufficient staff protected by union contracts, her own 18- hour days and personal attacks from the status quo, that date back to the very day she arrived two years ago!

Norwalk will be on its 6th superintendent in a decade.


We need an interim/permanent Superintendent that  possesses the following attributes:

–          A Reformer

–          Proven executive leadership – can effectively lead a $155 million organization.

–          Willing to fire insubordinate people, crack heads and take on the unions. Norwalk is a rough place.

–          Openly embraces the City as a partner and appreciates the financial/political support the City sincerely desires to provide

We would appreciate a meeting with you or your staff anytime and will  bring members of our BoE and City Officials!

Lisa Thomson

Red Apples of Norwalk



Below is a copy of the Press Release from the Norwalk Board of Education

Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Tenders Resignation

Norwalk, CT  (July 13, 2012) – – Norwalk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Marks submitted her resignation to Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte today citing personal reasons and following the Board of Education’s meeting on Thursday night at which the Board approved a revised budget based on additional funding appropriated by the Board of Estimate and Taxation.  The school superintendent’s contract would have expired in 2014.  Her last day will be August 17, 2012.  In the interim, Dr. Marks will work with the Board of Education on a transition plan.

In a statement, Chiaramonte thanked Dr. Marks for her leadership the past two years, highlighting her accomplishments under “challenging financial circumstances largely beyond her control”. “Student test scores have been up across the board… We were rated the school system that made the most progress of the eighteen largest school districts in Connecticut in systematic use of data and staff professional development, according to Warren Logee of the State Board of Education.”

The Norwalk Public Schools ensure that its more than 11,000 students succeed academically and achieve their full potential, preparing them for post-secondary learning and a life of meaning and purpose.  Through rigorous classroom instruction based on the Common Core Standards, high expectations, and excellence in instruction, NPS builds upon Norwalk’s diversity through a collaborative culture, partnership with parents, and commitment to individuality and growth.

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Jul 152012

One of the weaknesses of the reform legislation passed this spring in Hartford was that nothing was done to move educator quality forward by getting rid of the Last In First Out Policy (LIFO) and the forced placement and  bumping that takes place in the event of a reduction in force.  The poor economy is forcing municipalities across the U.S. to  lay off teachers, administration and support staff.  But in lean times, are the best performers being let go?  What is in the best interests of the children?  Norwalk will be handing out pink slips in the next week or so whereby nearly 90 staff will be let go.  Between the layoffs and bumping procedures, every school will be impacted.

Hopefully, in the next legislative session, the State of Connecticut will introduce other factors for consideration, besides the date of hire, in the event that the economy does not improve the tax base or that Norwalk receives its fair share of ECS revenues and more forced reductions  are required.

We have published the seniority lists of the NPS administration and teachers for parents of the different schools to view, so as to better understand the impact of the LIFO process versus performance.  We will be publishing the support staff seniority list shortly.   We have also included an op-ed from the former chancellor of the Washington D.C. school district.

Copy of administrators seniority512

Copy of teachers72012

NFEP Groups 1_2_4_5_6_7_8

Below is an editorial written by Michelle Rhee is the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools and the CEO and founder of StudentsFirst.org, which advocates teacher evaluations and eliminating tenure and making policy decisions based on students’ needs.

End ‘last in, first out’ teacher layoffs  By Michelle Rhee, Special to CNNFebruary 23, 2011 5:47 p.m. EST

(CNN) — State leaders across the country are confronting some of the toughest decisions they have ever had to make in order to balance their budgets amid a massive financial crisis. As a parent who has worked in education for almost 20 years, knowing that budget cuts will soon hit education is far from my ideal.

A wave of layoffs will likely happen this summer, and my group, StudentsFirst.org, calculates that at least 160,000 teachers are at risk of losing their jobs. What makes this even tougher on kids is that the majority of the country’s states and school districts conduct layoffs using an antiquated policy referred to as “last in, first out.” The policy mandates that the last teachers hired are the first teachers fired, regardless of how good they are. As it stands now, teachers’ impact on students plays absolutely no role in these decisions.

When we fold “last in, first out” policies into the budget crisis, our children stand to lose some of the best teachers in the country unless states work very quickly to erase the policies from the books. Most people know by now that international tests show our kids perform behind other developed countries, and far too many American students are graduating without the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for high-skilled jobs.

One thing is clear: We will not reverse this trajectory or regain our global standing without the powerful work of America’s great teachers. Especially now, the status quo won’t do. We have to be more competitive than ever, not less. Yet in almost every state across the country, the last in, first out policy is softening America’s competitive edge.

In difficult times like this, it may be easier to turn a blind eye to the compelling connection between teachers and our future long-term prosperity. We cannot do this to our kids. If we want to come out on the other side of this crisis with public education stronger, we have to do everything possible to keep our best teachers in the classroom. Last in, first out policies actively work against this goal. Here’s why:

First, research indicates that when districts conduct seniority-based layoffs, we end up firing some of our most highly effective educators. These are the inspiring and powerful teachers that students remember for the rest of their lives, and our nation will lose more of them with every such layoff.

Second, last in, first out policies increase the number of teachers that districts have to lay off. Because junior teachers make less money, schools will lose more teachers and more jobs as long as these policies are permitted by law.

And finally, last in, first out disproportionately hurts the highest-need schools. These schools have larger numbers of new teachers, who are the first to lose their jobs in a layoff. High-income areas have more stable systems and fewer new teachers, and they are less impacted by budget cuts. Students who live in these poor areas can’t afford to lose their best teachers on top of those cuts. Yet last in, first out will drain the school systems of their best educators in the neighborhoods that need them the most.

We cannot afford to ignore the effect that such a policy has on kids. It’s time to act.

The bottom line is layoffs should be based on teacher performance and effectiveness, not seniority — regardless of whether the teacher is new or been in the system for a while. Achievement varies from student to student, and so I support a “value-added” growth model that effectively measures a teacher’s impact on student progress.

In early December, I launched StudentsFirst, a national movement to defend the rights of children in public education. Our first major initiative is the national Save Great Teachers campaign, in which we’re urging states to make policy changes ridding the nation’s public schools of harmful last in, first out polices. Those who want legislators to revise state policies should visit StudentsFirst.org to find out what they can do to help.

Together, we can save great teachers by working to hold districts, boards of education and state legislators accountable. Let’s eliminate outdated policies and give our children the quality education they deserve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michelle Rhee.


Jul 102012

There has been a lot of  emotional controversy surrounding the potential increasing of class sizes due to the current budget woes.  What is the right size to maximize student learning?  How  many students are too many?  Below is an article that was originally published in  Education Week in  August, 2004 and recently updated and republished in July, 2011.  It deals with the topic of balancing  municipal and state budgets with class size and makes the point that class size alone does not ensure student achievement. Teaching practices in the classroom also need to be modified.  It also raises the point that  states have not been able to take class sizes down to the most optimum level  due to its costs prohibitive nature (16 students.)  Is it time to look at different practices in the  public classroom in order to deal with student learning?

Since we like data, we’ve published the sample class size lists of NPS  for Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 5th, 7th and high school as bench-marked across the state of Connecticut.

Copy of State-District Class Size Selected_Grades

Class Size:  Published in  Education Week  July, 2011.

Reducing class size has become a perennial education improvement strategy, often popular with teachers and parents for its ability to give teachers more individual instructional time with students. Yet as states and districts struggle with tight budgets, more policymakers and researchers have begun to turn away from straight class-size reduction in favor of other methods to increase individual instruction time, such as restructured class formats, co-teaching, and distance learning.

Reducing class size gained prominence as a federally supported school-improvement strategy in 2000, with the creation of a federal class-size-reduction program, which gave states funding to recruit, hire, and train new teachers. Under the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary School Act—also known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001—that program was consolidated into a more general teacher-quality block-grant program funded at $2.85 billion for 2002.

The national ratio of students to teachers in public schools fell between 1980 and 2008, from 17.6 to 15.8 students per teacher, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, because the statistics count special education and other specialized teachers who normally have much smaller classes than regular classroom teachers do, the U.S. Department of Education estimates the current average class size is closer to 25 students (Sparks, 2010).

In Quality Counts 2008, the EPE Research Center found that 21 states had a class-size reduction policy in place for the 2007-08 school year. By 2010, all but 15 states had laws restricting the number of students that may be included in a general education classroom, in some or all grades. Following the start of an economic downturn in 2008, 19 states relaxed or eliminated their class-size laws or policies, usually as a cost-saving measure (Sparks, 2010; Dorko, Sparks, 2010).

Likewise, states and districts have begun to shift their use of the federal teacher-quality block grants away from class-size reduction measures. According to an analysis by the Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, 38 percent of districts surveyed in 2008-09 used the grants, called Title II, Part A funds, to reduce class sizes, but overall, the number of teachers whose jobs were underwritten by those grants decreased by 40 percent between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009. (Chait, 2009)

Research, for the most part, tends to support the belief in the benefits of small classes. While not all studies on the subject have shown that students learn more in smaller settings—and some are still ongoing—most have linked smaller classes to improvements in achievement.

The biggest and most credible of those studies, Tennessee’s statewide Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, project, begun in the late 1970s, found that the learning gains students made in classes of 13 to 17 students persisted long after the students moved back into average-size classes (HEROS, 2011). What’s more, the Tennessee researchers found, poor and African-American students appeared to reap the greatest learning gains in smaller classes. After kindergarten, the gains black students made in smaller classes were typically twice as large as those for whites. Follow-up studies through the years have found the students who had been in small classes in their early years had better academic and personal outcomes throughout their school years and beyond (Krueger, 2001; Sparks, 2011).

Likewise, a 2001 evaluation of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, class size reduction program by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that a five-year-old program of class-size reduction in Wisconsin resulted in higher achievement for children living in poverty. Research from Columbia University Teachers College in New York showed the context of class-size reduction can affect its success in improving student achievement (Ready, 2008). Similarly, Charles M. Achilles, one of the original principal researchers on the STAR study, has said researchers and policymakers will have difficulty replicating the improvements seen in the STAR study without including key elements of that program, such as early intervention and small class sizes of three years or more (Achilles, 2008).

Researchers agree that shrinking the number of students in a class does not automatically translate into better learning. To squeeze the most out of their new settings, teachers may need to alter their teaching practices, dropping lecture-style approaches and providing more frequent feedback and interaction. And, while the studies that found positive effects from class-size reductions have focused on efforts that cut classes down to 16 or so students, states have so far tended to reduce classes only by a few students.

As school improvement ideas go, reducing class sizes is costlier than many others and more complicated than it appears at first blush. For example, Florida estimates its class-size program will cost $40 billion to implement through 2020. An analysis of 24 state policies by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy found many of those initiatives may not be worth the cost because the average class-size reductions were not large enough to improve student achievement (Whitehurst, 2011).

One concern surrounding efforts in various states to shrink class sizes is that the press for quantity will come at the expense of quality, forcing schools and districts to hire underqualified or unprepared teachers.

California learned that lesson firsthand when the state undertook its own class-size-reduction initiative beginning in 1996. In the first year of implementation, more than one-fifth of the new teachers hired in that state had only emergency credentials. Hit hardest were schools serving poor and minority students. In the hunt for new space, administrators found themselves carving classrooms out of broom closets and erecting portable classrooms on playgrounds.

It remains to be seen how much federal support will be given to class-size reduction programs in the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced a preference for expanding school days and years to increase instructional time over reducing class sizes. He cited statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group representing major industrialized countries, showing that several high-performing Asian countries have higher average class sizes: 33 in Japan and 36 in South Korea, compared with the estimated 25 students in the United States.

Dorko, K., Sparks, S.D., “Setting Class-Size Limits” (Interactive Map), Education Week, 2010.
Education Week, Quality Counts 2008: Tapping Into Teaching, Jan. 10, 2008.
Health and Education Research Operative Services, Inc., “Project STAR Overview,” 2011.
Sparks, S.D., “Class Sizes Show Signs of Growing,” Education Week, Nov. 24, 2010.
U.S. Department of Education, “Class-Size Reduction Myths and Realities,” 2002.

Jul 102012

This exerpt  was taken from the Digital Learning Now  website.

Technology has changed the way we live, work, shop and play. We can bank, shop and donate securely from anywhere we can access the Internet. We can to communicate across oceans and continents in seconds. We can work from anywhere, increasing efficiency and productivity. Yet, American education has yet to embrace the power of technology to customize education and give students the ability to gain knowledge anywhere, anytime.

Digital learning is any type of learning that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace. It allows students to learn in their own way, on their own timetable, wherever they are, whenever they can.  Students are using digital learning everywhere – except school. They are gaming, texting and posting on the Internet.

Imagine if we channel those digital skills into learning? Student achievement would skyrocket!


Consider some of the following information taken from their website: www.digitallearningnow.com

The 7 Transformational Metrics:

In developing their plans, states should adopt a sense of urgency around certain policy areas:

  1. establishing a competency-based education that requires students to demonstrate mastery of the material,
  2. providing a robust offering of high quality courses from multiple providers,
  3. ending the archaic practice of seat-time,
  4. funding education based on achievement instead of attendance,
  5. funding the student instead of the system,
  6. eliminating the all-too-common practice by school districts of prohibiting students from enrolling with approved providers, either by withholding funding or credit, and
  7. breaking down the barriers, such as teacher-student ratios and class size limits, to effective, high quality instruction.

Ultimately, data provides the empirical basis for lawmakers and policymakers to develop sound policy.

Numbers below represent metrics from the Nuts & Bolts Policies

Create a 21st Century College and Career Ready High School Diploma
• Require Online Courses to Earn a Diploma (8)
• Adopt Competency-Based Promotion (31, 32)
• Fund Digital Learning in the Formula (14, 15, 16)

Empower Students to Customize Education for Individual Student Success
• Empower Students and Parents with Decisions (15, 16, 55)
• Provide a Robust Offering of High Quality Choices (35-36, 42-53)
• End Barriers to Access (3, 4, 12, 13, 17, 18)
• Foster Blending Learning (22-28)
• Fund Digital Learning in the Formula (14, 15, 16)

End the Achievement Gap
• Adopt Test-Based Promotion (31, 32)
• End Seat-Time (34)
• Adopt Performance-Based Funding (63)
• Fund Digital Learning in the Formula (14, 15, 16)

Support High Achievers
• Foster Acceleration for Middle School Students (23, 29, 30)
• Foster Acceleration for High School Students (29, 30, 33)
• End Seat-Time (34)
• Fund Digital Learning in the Formula (14, 15, 16)

Extend the Reach and Results of Great Teachers
• Recruit and Retrain Effective Educators (37, 38, 39, 62)
• Provide Teachers with Ability Support for Digital Learning (40, 41, 68, 69)
• Replace Class-Size Limits with Workload Guidelines (9, 10, 11)

Modernize Infrastructure
• Administer Tests Digitally (56, 57)
• Provide Content Digitally (64, 67)
• Provide Internet Access Devices (68, 70)

Ensure a Quality Education for All Students
• Provide a Robust Offering of High Quality Choices (35-36, 42-50, 53)
• Demand Accountability for Student Learning (58-61)

Check out where Connecticut Stands legislatively with respect to digital learning.

Connecticut Status on Digital Learning

Check out what the State of Colorado and the Jefferson County Public School District is doing with regard to On-Line Learning. Can Norwalk learn anything?




Jul 052012

With all of the controversy surrounding the reading program at Nathan Hale Middle School, we decided to take a look at CMT trend data for the  past 6 years.  Nathan Hale consistently outperformed the other middle schools, despite having feeder elementary schools that were not ranked # 1 in their reading  scores.   Did you know that Nathan Hale was #1 in reading scores for 4 out of 6 years in 6th grade and # 1 in 5 out of 6 years for 8th grade from 2006-2011.

6th Grade CMT Scores By Middle School 2006-2011

8th Grade CMT Scores By Middle School 2006-2011


Copy of CMT Scores Reading Middle Schools by class (3 years)