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New ERNA CT Poll on VBM; CT Resuming SBAC This Year; + "Rebalancing" Debunked Reading Curriculum

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the BIG roster this week: New ERNA CT Poll: Mixed Feelings on VBM, CT to Resume the SBAC This Year to Measure COVID Impact, and The Debunked Teachers College Reading Curriculum is “Rebalancing”.

New ERNA CT Poll: Mixed Feelings on Voting By Mail

Education Reform Now Advocacy CT, our 501c4 affiliate, conducted a poll of likely voters in the state to gain insights into how turnout will be affected and what impact expanded voting rights will have on the General Election. As an advocacy organization, ERNA CT is particularly interested in how new elected leadership and increased voting access will impact students in our State. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling on Oct. 14 and 15, found that Connecticut voters are split, with about half believing voting by mail or absentee ballot is as secure as in-person voting, and the vast majority of voters who had not cast ballots still planning to vote in person on Election Day this Nov. 3. According to the survey, 77% of voters had not yet voted, and 84% of that group said they plan to vote in person. Despite significant evidence that voting by mail is secure, many voters still express concerns about both the security of voting absentee and by mail. Only about half of all voters — 49% — say they trust the security of absentee ballots and vote by mail as much as in-person voting, while 43% say they do not.

CT to Resume the SBAC This Year, Measure COVID Impact

Last week in a memo to Superintendents, the Connecticut Department of Education announced its plans to administer the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) this spring. This early and clear guidance from the state is critical, and will ensure we have an understanding of how students’ learning is faring during this difficult time. During the height of the COVID outbreak earlier this year, the federal government provided a one-time waiver on assessments. More recently however, they have signaled that they will require it for the 2020-21 academic year. Last spring, the The Education Trust, National Urban League and the Center for American Progress released guidance saying, “Should a targeted, one-time waiver from annual assessments be granted to a state in response to coronavirus, it is critical for accountability determinations to be carried over from the prior year to ensure transparency and continued support for students while any such waivers are in effect.” We weighed in on the importance of measuring year to year progress statewide and against national outcomes in early April, especially during a time when we know there has been significant learning loss for so many students.

  • CT Coverage on SBAC Testing for 2020-21 Year (CT Post)

  • Federal Guidance on Testing 2020-21 (EdWeek)

  • Amy’s Op-ed, State Should Not Roll Back Testing (Stamford Advocate)

Debunked Teachers College Reading Curriculum is "Rebalancing"

As many of you know, the widely used reading curriculum, Units of Study and Readers Workshop designed by Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project has a significant problem: the curriculum and it’s focus on cuing, memorization, and attractive materials has been identified as not sufficiently focusing on the research confirmed approach of prioritizing phonics in early instruction. The effects of this style of teaching early reading has had a significant impact on student achievement including in Connecticut. Approximately half of all Connecticut third grade students were not reading at benchmark levels, pre-pandemic. This week, American Public Media reporter Emily Hanford was able to obtain internal documents from Teachers College acknowledging that the overwhelming research and scientific evidence points to a need to “rebalance” their approach. As we mentioned earlier this year, there is a solution to Connecticut’s literacy crisis, and taking a research based approach to literacy instruction, in every school for every child, is the urgent first step.

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