EWA 2012 Beat Reporting

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Efforts to desegregate, expand school choice a challenge with looming deficits

State education officials are proposing to expand opportunities for Hartford children by sending more of them to suburban schools — but the multimillion-dollar plan will be a tough sell as growing signs of deficits plague the state budget. The plan — which includes increasing current reimbursements for districts that enroll a certain threshold of Hartford students, opening two new magnet schools and possibly a new charter school for next school year — is an attempt by the state to comply with a 16-year-old Connecticut Supreme Court order requiring state officials to reduce the inequalities caused by the racial isolation of Hartford’s largely black and Hispanic school population. “We are obviously moving forward and looking at what we can do to expand,” said Kathy Dempsey, the leader at the state Department of Education office responsible for complying with the settlement. These recommendations that were submitted to the governor’s budget office last month come as the state plans to announce in two weeks whether it has fulfilled the requirement that 41 percent of Hartford students be attending an integrated school or that 80 percent of those who wish to leave their neighborhood school be provided the opportunity to do so. If the state does not comply, the alternative to state lawmakers taking action to integrate schools on its own could be the courts mandating a remedy.Last school year, the state was far from reaching the finish line. Continue Reading →

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DCF failing some foster children educationally, advocates say

After running away from her abusive family, Crystal Griffin spent years attending school at the group homes where the state sent her to live. She knows firsthand the quality of the education foster children get when the state is your parent. “There was nothing hard about it,” said Griffin, who is now 19. “They may say it’s tenth grade work, but I learned that stuff in eighth grade.” The quality of the education provided in non-traditional settings for abused and neglected foster children– and the lack of monitoring of their educational progress — is coming under fire by both child advocates and a prominent state legislator. “What’s most shocking is that [the] state is really a bad parent,” said Sen. Toni Harp, a Democrat from New Haven and the co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee. Continue Reading →

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The cost of lobbying education reform: millions

More than $3 million was spent lobbying both sides of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package during the 2012 legislative session. And at least one good government organization is concerned that not every lobbying group is required by law to report the sources of the money. Active groups this year included teachers’ unions fighting the governor’s education package and national and state education reform groups, which supported the governor’s proposals to limit collective bargaining rights in the lowest-performing schools and links tenure and dismissal decisions to student performance. The legislature approved a modified package that, among other changes, transformed how teachers get tenure. Figures filed with the Office of State Ethics include only the amount — $2.9 million — spent through April. Continue Reading →

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Change of plans. Meetings creating teacher evaluations will be public.

After holding numerous meetings behind closed doors to finalize details on how teachers and principals will be graded, the State Department of Education has said the public and the media can attend the sessions from now on. “Something is different at this meeting. At this meeting — in the interest of transparency — the state department has invited the press to join us,” is how Elizabeth Shaw, the state’s consultant with Education First, started Wednesday’s “working group” meeting. This decision to conduct open meetings comes one day after the Connecticut Mirror reported that several private meetings have taken place without public notice and that 10 more closed sessions had been scheduled. It also follows a contentious Performance Evaluation Advisory Council meeting last week, the first public meeting in three months, where members butted heads on how much weight to give students’ standardized test results in teacher evaluations. Continue Reading →

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No applause for implementation of education reforms

Only two hours after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a compromise education reform bill to near universal applause, a disagreement erupted at the State Department of Education over how to implement a provision on evaluating teachers. At issue is how much students’ performances on standardized tests will count when grading teachers. The new reform package relies on linking tenure and dismissal decisions to a new state-created teacher evaluation system. “We are going to have an evaluation system that actually means something,” Malloy said Tuesday afternoon, before signing the bill to the applause of administrators, teacher union leaders and others at the state Capitol. From left: Phil Apruzzese and Mary Loftus Levine of the CEA; and Joe Cirasuolo, representing superintendents. Continue Reading →

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Are charter schools cherry-picking their students?

Hartford — As students from the highly regarded Jumoke Academy Charter School filed into the gymnasium for a mid-afternoon assembly last week, onlooker Gov. Dannel P. Malloy pointed out that at first glance these students seem to mirror those attending the neighborhood public schools. “Look around,” he said, fielding questions about whether this school is teaching the same type of students who attend Hartford public schools. But enrollment numbers tell a different story. Just one of the 432 students who attended Jumoke last school year spoke limited English, while in other schools in Hartford, 18 percent spoke limited English. Likewise, 4 percent of Jumoke students require special education compared with 15 percent in Hartford. Continue Reading →

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Malloy wants only B+ students in teaching programs

New Britain — Elissa Maillet worries she’s not going to be able to get a teaching job when she graduates from Central Connecticut State University in two years. “I am really nervous about it,” the sophomore with a 3.6 grade point average said while studying between classes. “The job opportunities seem to be so scarce.” That may soon change. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is proposing that the state’s private and public teaching colleges increase entrance requirements — from a 2.7 to 3.3 GPA in their early college years — which could result in hundreds of would-be teachers being turned away. Continue Reading →

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