For the past several years, CCER has released an annual report on the state’s progress in passing and implementing our long-term plan to raise academic outcomes for all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic status. Based upon the recommendations we initially put forth in 2011, we developed a rubric so that we can both qualitatively and quantitatively track this progress.

At the end of 2015, we moved to an online format, so that you can track Connecticut’s progress in real time. So far, the state has fully implemented over 37% of our recommendations. We’ve accomplished so much, but there’s still a lot left to do.

We know that a lot of the upcoming legislative session is going to be focused on the budget deficit. But we also know that investing in Connecticut’s students is the best way our state can improve its economic prospects.

Read on to check out what we’ve accomplished to date, and how our 2016 policy priorities will keep the focus on kids!

Demand Accountability

These original recommendations touched upon the need for strong state leadership with the tools to drive accountability for change. As you can see from our scorecard, Connecticut has taken serious steps to ensure that high-quality state-level leadership is in place. But we still lack access to the kinds of data that can inform and drive decisions.

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That’s why this year, we’ll be seeking to require districts to publicly report anonymous, aggregated data on teacher evaluations. When policy-makers and local decision-makers have access to that data, they will be able to make informed decisions about state-level policy and educator placement.

High Expectations

Our 2015 progress report finds that—among other areas of importance—we need to do much more to expand access to high-quality preschool experiences for young students. We need to start setting high expectations for these children early, especially those who come from low-income families.

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It’s a focus of much of our plan for this year. We want to:

  • Increase the number of high-quality early childhood slots for low-income children.
  • Accelerate the development of a Quality Rating and Improvement System that will publicly rate early childhood programs and provide them with a track for improvement. (This will allow parents and policy-makers to make more informed decisions.)
  • Streamline the licensing of early childhood educators from regionally accredited institutions. (If they’re well-qualified, they should have a less cumbersome process of getting into the early childhood programs that need them most!)

Foster Leadership

Our report shows that Connecticut still has a lot to do to improve in terms of the preparation and certification of qualified school and district leaders.

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That’s why we’re aiming to expand Achievement First’s Alternate Route to Certification program (which prepares administrators to lead in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport).

We also want to remove bureaucratic barriers that prevent high-quality leaders from out-of-state from coming into Connecticut. We’ll be asking for legislation that requires Connecticut to enter into certification reciprocity agreements with other states so that their great leaders can more easily be certified in Connecticut.

Excellent Teaching

We have lots of room for improvement in teacher preparation and certification.

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Although our report identifies several barriers to excellence in Connecticut’s teaching field (incomplete evaluation and professional development programs, ineffective recruitment and retention strategies), our 2016 agenda focuses upon addressing teacher preparation—especially in shortage areas.

We’ll be advocating for teacher candidates to complete performance assessments that measure their ability to produce lesson plans, teach, and evaluate their students. We think this approach will set a high bar without relying upon the sometimes culturally biased metrics of GPAs and SAT results.

We will also be asking for the removal of bureaucratic barriers (a common theme of ours!) that prevent obvious, sensible cross-endorsements in teacher certification. If a well-trained teacher in one field can also show expertise in a related content area, (s)he should be able to teach it!

Currently, Connecticut needs more science teachers. Otherwise its science classrooms will get staffed by minimally qualified teachers. If a biology teacher, for example, also has top notch knowledge of chemistry, wouldn’t it be better to have a well-qualified teacher staff that chemistry classroom than a stand-in who lacks the same level of content expertise? We think so!

Two New Ideas

  1. Connecticut invests heavily in a framework for intervening in the state’s lowest performing districts (Alliance Districts) and schools (Commissioner’s Network). But shouldn’t we be securing those investments by holding those programs accountable for results? We’re going to ask the state to annually evaluate these programs and report on their effectiveness.
  2. We also realize that many of you feel that your students are over-burdened by testing during school hours. Did you know it’s not actually the state-mandated test that is taking up your students’ time? That test is actually the same length it has always been. Nonetheless, it’s also true that–over time–districts have also developed their own assessments in an attempt to make sure your student is on track. That’s why are asking the state this year to reduce testing burden by:
  • Providing districts with technical assistance aimed at decreasing the use of non-mandated (and sometimes redundant) local assessments; and
  • Building models of effective, balanced assessment systems that reflect industry standards (without unduly stressing out our kids).

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If this agenda for 2016 makes sense to you, feel free to share it with others!