Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Video series asks where New Haven’s next mayor stands on education

New Haven has made significant progress on education reforms. But there is still a lot of work to be done to improve New Haven’s public schools.

That’s why parents and community leaders from across New Haven have teamed up with ConnCAN to launch a three-day video series in order to find out where mayoral candidates stand on key education reforms.

The series consists of three videos, each featuring one question from a community leader or parent, which will be showcased on the ConnCAN blog and tweeted simultaneously at the Twitter handles of both Justin Elicker and Toni Harp.

We hope you’ll follow these conversations on Twitter (@conncan), and ask elected leaders in New Haven and across Connecticut where they stand on ensuring that all kids have have access to great teachers, principals and public schools.

 And to find out more information on where the candidates stand on education reforms, also visit

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New York Times urges ‘sensible’ thinking on school reform

If we truly intend to provide the high quality public education every child deserves, the goal should be to do what works or, as The New York Times said in a recent editorial, to think “sensibly” about school reform.

The editorial was referring to the stated policies of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who has been an outspoken critic of public charter schools and public school options.

Thankfully, political leaders in Connecticut have begun to act sensibly, creating conditions that will help kids be prepared for college and careers. For the first time in years, the number of charter schools in Connecticut is growing: Waterbury became home to the state’s first new charter school in five years, and New Haven is playing host to Connecticut’s newest and only local charter school.  Charters and districts are forming partnerships in Hartford to accelerate progress for kids and to train turnaround principals in New Haven. And, thanks to recent legislation, charter organizations are partnering with school districts to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools.

But, here in Connecticut, as in New York, we have much work left to do. Thousands of kids remain stuck in chronically failing schools, and families’ demand for charter schools far exceeds available seats.

In a strong show of support for charter schools in New York thousands of children, parents and educators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this month. Around the same time, Siena College and The New York Times released the results of a poll showing wide support for charter schools in New York.

It’s easy to see why. Many charter schools are successful because they have the flexibility to deliver what works for kids, and use that flexibility effectively meet students’ academic, emotional and social needs. On average, charter students in New York and Connecticut outperform their peers.

Given these results,  “sensible thinking” about school reform must guide our decisions. Officials in New York — like lawmakers, officials, and educators in Connecticut — should focus not on the politics and rhetoric of education, but on what matters — providing a great education to every child, regardless of race, wealth or zip code.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Administrator Contract Database is unique in Connecticut

One week after releasing a revamped Teacher Contract Database, ConnCAN released a database covering school administrator contracts in Connecticut, a unique resource and the first of its kind in the state.

Administrators manage the environment in which our kids learn and their leadership sets the stage for how well schools and teachers are able to prepare our children for success in college and careers.

That’s why, for the first time ever, ConnCAN created a user-friendly resource for teachers, parents, policymakers, and advocates, to further understand what is included in collective bargaining agreements that govern school districts across Connecticut.

ConnCAN’s new Administrator Contract Database provides a district snapshot with the number of administrators and schools in each district, information about salaries, layoff procedures, health care benefits, and more. ConnCAN’s database is Connecticut’s only repository for administrator collective bargaining agreements in the state. Connecticut’s public school districts educate over 550,000 kids and employ more than 3,000 administrators in 1,133 schools, according to the State Department of Education.

Users can compare four districts at a time and ConnCAN’s analysis shows some interesting trends.

For example, only 12 public school districts (9 percent of the total number of school districts with administrator collective bargaining agreements) tie an administrator’s performance and effectiveness to salary increases. Also, only 19 school districts (15 percent of the total) stipulate that an administrator’s salary increases can be withheld due to negative evaluations.

Now, parents, policymakers and advocates have, at their fingertips, the collective bargaining agreements under which every one of those administrators work. Given how important our districts and school leaders are to the success of our students, this information is critical to guiding decisions about school district policy and budgets.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Every child, regardless of wealth, deserves the best education

The United States Census Bureau’s release of poverty data offers further proof that we must provide a high quality education for every student, regardless of race, wealth, or zip code.

The numbers are stark: According to the Census Bureau, 15 percent of Americans, or one in seven, live below the poverty line, including about 16.1 million children. When looking at racial breakdown, the bureau found that Black and Latino families survive at the lowest median income level.

Those numbers are not new. As the bureau explained, “This marked the second consecutive year that neither the official poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the previous year's estimates.”

Connecticut has a persistent, worst-in-the-nation achievement gap. According to data released by Connecticut’s State Department of Education, only 32.7 percent of the state’s Black 3rd grade students were reading at or above “goal,” compared to 69.4 percent of the state’s white 3rd graders. Among third grade students from low-income families, 32.4 percent, were reading at or above “goal,” compared to 71.5 percent of those who did not qualify.

The good news is, there is a way out. A good education is key to ending the cycle of poverty, and while Connecticut and other states have made some progress in providing high quality public education options, turning around our lowest performing schools, and supporting teachers and principals while holding them accountable for results, there is still much work to be done.

Connecticut must protect and expand this progress if we hope to provide a good education for every child, regardless of wealth, race, or zip code.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A progress report on education reform

Our state leaders must continue progress to ensure great teachers, principals and public schools for every child. Below is ConnCAN's September progress report on education reform in Connecticut.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Waterbury welcomes Connecticut’s newest charter school

Brass City Charter School, Connecticut’s first new charter school in five years, opened this week in Waterbury.

“Our goal is to provide some of Waterbury’s most underserved children with a high-quality education and a strong social and emotional learning program. Brass City will enable students to soar academically and develop as people of character, leading meaningful and productive lives both for themselves and for their community,” Principal and Executive Director Jocelyn Ruggiero said in a release. “This is an exciting day for us, and it is an exciting day for our students as they begin a new chapter in their academic lives.”

“As Waterbury’s first public charter school, Brass City is playing a major role in closing our state’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap,” said Jeremiah Grace, Connecticut state director for Northeast Charter Schools Network. “Their efforts will help ensure that more public school students get a great education, regardless of race, wealth or zip code.” Grace said. “We look forward to working with Brass City as they grow and expand, and encourage other community groups to come together to open additional good schools in the city.”

Check out WFSB’s coverage below:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Test score results offer hope for Commissioner’s Network schools

This year’s state standardized test scores provide some indications of progress in our state’s lowest performing schools though as yet it’s far too early to draw broad conclusions about the overall success or failure of efforts to turn these schools around.

The percentage of students performing at at grade level at two of the four original Commissioner’s Network schools improved this year — New Haven’s High School in the Community and Hartford’s Jumoke Academy at Milner — according to Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test data released this month by the State Department of Education. Scores at the other two schools — Bridgeport’s Curiale School and Norwich’s Stanton Elementary — dipped slightly, in line with the results in many schools across the state.

The results of turnaround efforts at New Haven’s High School in the Community were particularly encouraging. Overall, the number of students at goal at New Haven’s Commissioner’s Network school jumped by 8.2 percentage points when compared to 2012. These gains were anchored by a 34.7 percentage point increase in writing and a 24.4 percentage point rise in reading.

The Commissioner’s Network, created last year as part of 2012’s landmark education reform bill, Public Act 12-116, is the state’s turnaround program for schools that have been chronically failing Connecticut kids for years. The results released in August offer some signs of progress, but it’s too early to draw conclusions about the Commissioner’s Network based only on the first year results. Research on school turnarounds suggests that it will likely take some time to turnaround these lowest-performing schools.

However, we also know that students and families in these schools can’t wait many years — each child in those schools deserves access to a great education now. So we hope that policymakers and practitioners pay careful attention to what’s working and what’s not in these schools and make adjustments to the turnaround efforts as needed so that they can accelerate improvements in future years.

While the results in Commissioner’s Network schools include some bright spots, it’s clear that there still is a lot of work to be done. Efforts to turnaround our lowest-performing schools must move forward. We must continue working hard to ensure that every child receives the high quality education they deserve.