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A Winning Night for CT Dems, “Right to Read” Center Stage at SBE Meeting

Congratulations to all the candidates on running great races this year! Leadership matters—to families, to educators, and to students!

A Winning Night for CT Dems It might be Wednesday morning, but Election Night is still going in some key Connecticut races…

Overall, it was a very winning night for Connecticut Democrats with expected re-election victories for Governor Lamont, Senator Blumenthal, and most of the Congressional delegation. Still holding on with a slight advantage in the 5th Congressional District, Jahana Hayes’ race is one of several across the country that will decide which party controls the US House of Representatives. This race and a number of constitutional offices that all look strong for Democrats are still yet to be finalized–like the outcomes for Secretary of the State, Treasurer, and Comptroller.

The CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf gave an excellent rundown of which General Assembly races are still up in the air, who will be returning to Hartford next session, and who will not. It appears the Democrats might pick up a few seats in both the State House and Senate when all the votes are tallied, and into “supermajority” territory. While much has been made of this election being a referendum on reproductive rights and economic stability, we think the divisive and overreaching rhetoric by far-right candidates on schools and education likely had an impact. Hands off our schools, indeed.

In this early update, we can already tell there is some real education news to report:

  • Greenwich, a longtime Republican stronghold that has been moving more to the left over the last decade, has gone blue! Divisive and outspoken Education Committee member Republican Kimberly Fiorello was defeated by Democrat Rachel Khanna, and Democrat Hector Arzeno picked up the open seat vacated by Treasurer candidate Harry Arora. The 36th Senate District currently held by Republican Ryan Fazio is too close to call this morning, after a tight race with Democrat Trevor Crow.

  • In the Danbury region, outspoken school choice critic and Democrat House member Ken Gucker, who has opposed the opening of the state approved Danbury Charter School, was one of the few losses the party saw last night.

  • Two candidates this cycle that had been appointed to the state’s Reading Leadership Implementation Council by legislative leaders, are seeing mixed results. Kim Healy, who was running in Wilton’s newly drawn 42nd House District as a Republican, was defeated by Democrat Keith Denning. And Democrat Lisa Thomas, seeking the Senate seat in the 35th District for the second time, is still waiting on a final result in a close race.

  • Jan Hochadel, a Dem who won the 13th Senate District vacated by Mary Abrams, will be bringing a whole lot of teacher union experience to the governing body. She is still serving as the current President of the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut, which might play out as a significant conflict of interest.

  • In the newly redrawn Senate District 26, Democrat Ceci Maher had a decisive victory over Toni Boucher, who you might recall lost to Will Haskell two cycles ago and was the former long-time ranking member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee. Fairfield County had a very blue night!

Stay tuned next week for an update on what we at DFER CT were up to during this election season (attention data nerds!), as well as final results and analysis.

“Right to Read” Center Stage at SBE Meeting

The state’s new literacy investments under “Right to Read” were a recurring theme in the State Board of Education’s fascinating November 2nd meeting. The Fairfield Public School District reported back to the state on its plans to address the racial imbalance of one of its elementary schools. (Throwback to our June edition for background on this story.) The state heard presentations from Fairfield Board of Education Chair Christine Vitale, newly appointed Superintendent Michael Testani (formerly of Bridgeport), and Chief Academic Officer James Zavodjancik. Implementation of Right to Read legislation was cited frequently by the district as a promising effort to improve academic instruction. They're committing to a literacy plan that's deliberately aligned.

The district is eagerly embracing implementation, providing training in structured literacy through Literacy How, and establishing benchmarks aligned to the science of reading. "The district, its teachers, leadership, and board believe that opening up access to being able to read will allow students lifelong opportunities moving forward,” Fairfield reported. Bravo!

Representing the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), Interim Director of the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success Melissa Hickey also provided an update on the state’s Pre-K-3 Comprehensive Reading Programs. By July 2023, all boards of education will be required to implement an early literacy program or curricula from among the state’s approved list. And in December, Dr. Hickey, advised, districts will need to inform the state about their plans.

Notably absent from the approved list are curricula written by professor Lucy Calkins, creator of the Columbia Teachers College Units of Study programwidely used currently in Connecticut districts. She was the subject of a podcast that was released last week and is ranked #14 in the US Apple Podcast charts. “Sold a Story,” by acclaimed reporter Emily Hanford, is an exposé on the origins of “balanced literacy” and how educators across the country came to incorrectly believe that beginning readers don't have to learn how to sound out words. Last week’s episode discussed the influence of Lucy Calkins and began to address the reasons she was blind to decades of scientific research about how children read. Must listen.

Nutmeggers who are interested in Hanford’s work have an opportunity to see her live in New Haven next month. She’ll be on a panel discussion called, “Tell Me Why It Works: The Science Behind Reading” on December 6th. Also featured are ExcelinEd’s Kymona Burk, Literacy How’s Margie Gillis, Stamford Superintendent Tamu Lucero, a New Haven public school teacher, and ERN CT’s Amy Dowell to discuss the passage of the Right to Read legislation. Register here.

Join Us MONDAY at 3pm! ERN CT’s Amy Dowell and Sean Bradbury from Connecticut State Colleges & Universities will co-moderate a panel at the Partnership for Strong Communities Annual Conference on “Housing Access and Higher Education.” Details and Registration HERE.

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