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Using Housing to Bridge the Achievement Gap

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Visit www.cahs.org for more information on what the organization does for the state of Connecticut.

HARTFORD, CT— On Monday, February 27, 2012, the Connecticut Association for Human Services hosted a public forum entitled “Opportunity in Connecticut: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success.” Panelists with different backgrounds in housing, human rights, and the education system came together in the Old Judiciary Room of the capitol building to discuss a disturbing trend in Connecticut education. The trend is this: there is a large gap in achievement between white and minority students. The panel, facilitated by Eastern Connecticut State University’s president, Dr. Elsa M. Nuñez, especially focused on the topic of the Connecticut housing industry and its impact on the educational opportunities presented to children and their families. The panelists included Erin Boggs (Deputy Director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center), George Coleman (Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education), Orlando Rodriquez (Senior Policy Fellow with the Connecticut Voices for Children), and Valerie Shultz-Wilson (President and CEO of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut).

Opportunity in Connecticut
The forum opened up with a small power point presentation by Connecticut Kids Count Director, Jude Carroll in which she highlighted the crucial issues concerning race, poverty, and education. In her presentation, Carroll introduced a map that presented the comprehensive opportunity for children across the state of Connecticut (see page 5 of her document). Opportunity mapping geographically divides the state of Connecticut into very-low, low, moderate, high, and very-high opportunity zones according to their economic activity, job availability, school quality, house affordability, and access to healthy food. This kind of mapping illustrates the areas within the state of Connecticut that are either suffering or providing the most stimulating environment. From the depiction, Jude Carroll extrapolated that neighborhoods with limited opportunities were highly populated areas. Historically, these were also neighborhoods subjected to redlining in the past. Another staggering reality concluded that “Eighty-one percent of Blacks and 79 percent of Hispanics live in such ‘low-opportunity’ Connecticut neighborhoods, compared to 26 percent Whites. Conversely, ‘very high opportunity’ and ‘high opportunity’ neighborhoods are disproportionately White.”1 A histogram included in the power point demonstrated that the median household net worth for whites in the year 2008 was $195,771 while minorities lagged behind at $3,000. These numbers provided concrete evidence of the racial disparities that still exist in this nation. At the end of her presentation, Jude Carroll proposed solutions for improving Connecticut’s current economic despair. These solutions included creating tax incentives for cities to become net job creators and high opportunity areas, making sure jobs pay family-supporting wages, prioritizing racial and economic integration, creating an Education Rental Assistance Program, revamping the state’s school funding mechanism, increasing minimum wages, and increasing availability of need-based financial aid—a tall order for Connecticut state policy makers.

Choice in Terms of Housing
Choice in schooling has been a popular issue in the education debate for a long time. However, in most educational debates, not many education reformers mention family choice in deciding where they want to live. Today, Erin Boggs of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center was firm in her belief that children should not have the power to choose where they want to go to school, but also that families should have the right to decide where they want to live. In her five-minute presentation, Boggs pointed out that, due mostly to historical segregation, minorities continue to populate areas with low opportunity. These are areas with high crime rates, low job growth rates, and poor schools. She mentioned the link between poverty and schools—that the schools were struggling because the concentration of poverty was so high. Her suggestion? Create affordable subsidized housing in high opportunity areas, bringing children and families out of low opportunity areas and nearer to thriving schools.

Of course, affordable housing in high opportunity areas is not a perfect solution. George Coleman, Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education, expressed concern during the panelist discussion that as the poor moved into these homes, the rich would move out. Boggs combated this concern by suggesting that school systems be financially rewarded for offering affordable housing in high opportunity areas. Others, like Valerie Shultz-Wilson, President and CEO of the Urban League of Southern Connecticut, wondered if minority families would feel comfortable moving out of their communities and into high-income areas. Boggs argued that the housing movement was all about choice, about creating opportunities for families to succeed, but not forcing them into high opportunity areas. She also gave an example of a housing movement in Baltimore, Maryland when, given the opportunity, poor families created no opposition to relocate to suburban areas.

One thing is for certain, the achievement gap in Connecticut is the largest in the country. While advocates for reform struggle to find the solution, the idea of using housing to bridge this gap appears to be a promising one.

1 Reece, J. Gambhir, S., Olinger, J. Martin, M., and Harris, M. (2009) People, Place and Opportunity: Mapping Communities of Opportunity in Connecticut. A Joint Project of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and Kirwan institute for the Study.

Writers Shantel Hanniford (far right) and Richelle Benjamin (second from left) in front of the Old Judiciary Building

Proposed Ideas of Change for Connecticut

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HARTFORD– On February 27th, CT Association for Human Services held a public forum and panel at the State Capital about the new report released on “Opportunity in Connecticut: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success.” Jude Carroll, CT Kids Count Director, introduced by Jim Horan, CAHS Executive Director, began the discussion by emphasizing the importance of expanding the discussion of education reform and the achievement gap throughout the state. The report focuses on the purpose of opportunity in Connecticut, underlying causes of CT’s achievement gap, and what we should do to fix the opportunity structure based on race, poverty and education. Following Jude Carroll’s presentation, four panelists from four different organizations went over the concepts within the report and their own ideals that they work towards. While the presentation of the report set the stage for the day’s discussion and was very crucial, what was most interesting was the views of the panelists.

Job Opportunity in Connecticut

Whereas Jude Carroll emphasized the importance of opening the discussion of education and opportunities within the state, Orlando Rodriguez, Senior Policy Fellow of CT Voices for Children, stressed the future of our state in regards to job opportunities. Rodriguez highlighted that Connecticut has become a retirement state and as 2020 approaches, those working between 20-64 will begin to decrease. Connecticut will, and already has, seen a shift in higher income workers to low income workers. There has been a social isolation throughout the state where suburbs are becoming increasingly whiter. Rodriguez suggests that we need to decrease high school dropouts and reduce costs of post-secondary education. In addition, Rodriguez emphasizes the importance of Connecticut re-establishing a middle class through manufacturing jobs. Through post-secondary education, if costs are reduced and money was invested in skill training, manufacturing jobs would be more accessible and help raise the middle class. Valerie Shultz- Wilson, President and CEO of Urban League of Southern CT focused on many of the same ideas that Rodriguez did, but proposed the idea of the state partnering with corporations to give people jobs and to give training credentials to those who need jobs. In a conversation between Shultz- Wilson and Rodriguez, both discussed the fact that there are not enough jobs in Connecticut to keep the talented in the state, which leaves us with low skill workers. Connecticut needs to increase jobs and the cost of living needs to decrease to keep those talented citizens.

Importance of Housing on Opportunity

Rodriguez and Shultz- Wilson emphasized job opportunities within our state and the gap between low and high-income job opportunities, but another concept discussed was the importance of housing on opportunity. Erin Boggs, Deputy Director of CT Fair Housing Center, highlighted the opportunity map on page five of the report. Geography within the state is very important for what kind of education students will be receiving and what opportunities they will be given. Boggs states that what resources are available should not depend on where you live; all resources should be available to all people. Boggs proposes putting subsidizing housing in areas with thriving schools to decrease the achievement gap. Today, subsidizing housing is typically put in low-income areas, with low achievement rates and a lack of resources, but just because they are poor should not force them to live in poor environments. If they are put in poor environments, they are unlikely to escape poverty, but by putting poor families in striving environments with an abundance of resources, students can escape poverty and be high achieving too. George Coleman, Former Commissioner of the Connecticut State of Department, addresses the importance of desegregation in our towns too because as long as areas are segregated, the gap will not diminish. Coleman explains that middle-income areas create advantages to help children foster prosperity and gives them what they need to achieve, while low-income areas do not do this. In a later conversation between Boggs and Coleman, Coleman gave a valid point: low-income areas actually spend more per student because the students are farther behind because of poverty and because those areas are low-income, the schools lack resources. But if the state adopts the ideals proposed by Boggs, the achievement gap will lessen and the state will have more talent, and if the state provides more jobs, proposed by Rodriguez, in return, the state will prosper economically and racially.

In conclusion: Wrapping up the discussion

The report that set the stage of this discussion brought about many interesting and different concepts to change opportunity in Connecticut in relation to race, poverty and education. Moderator Elsa Núñez, President of Eastern Connecticut State College, ended the discussion with her own heartbreaking story. About 7 years ago Núñez was looking for an apartment in Connecticut and left a message to the owners with her interest in the apartment. Núñez unfortunately received a phone call back from the owner saying that Ms. Núñez would not be able to afford the apartment because it was very expensive and just redone. Núñez was a victim of racialization and her story shows that racial disparities are not fixed and there is so much more to do. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap of any state, and for anything to change, as Núñez emphasized in her opening speech, we must look at race, poverty and education simultaneously. While this discussion was interesting and brought up many great points and ideas to change opportunity in Connecticut, it was merely a conversation about change and no plan was implemented. However, the discussion is important and is the first step for change in Connecticut.

Education Discussion Hits “Home”

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HARTFORD— This past Monday, February 27, 2012, a discussion was held regarding the report Opportunity in CT: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success written by Judith Carol and published and sponsored by the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS).  The discussion, held in the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol, was facilitated by a group of highly-accredited individuals in the educational and political arenas.  A highlight of the discussion was the verbalized viewpoint of Erin Boggs, deputy director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.  Boggs’s agenda was implementing affordable subsidized housing into areas with higher opportunity and more successful schools. Boggs’s agenda on housing was acknowledged and discussed many times in the discussion and provided what seemed to be a fresh idea in the debate over the erasure of the achievement gap.

Erin Boggs and Affordable, Subsidized Housing

During the discussion, Boggs commented, “One thing I really want to focus on is we need to think very hard and be very thoughtful about how we place our affordable subsidized housing.  This history has been that we have simply placed that kind of housing again, and again, and again in areas of very high poverty and it makes no sense.”  Boggs continued, “In terms of connecting people to higher opportunity, a lot of this is about housing and making sure that we can place that exact same housing in areas just at very base level: where the schools are good…where schools are thriving. We do have a lot of schools in low-opportunity areas that I think are struggling really because there is an over concentration of poverty.”  By placing affordable housing in more-affluent and lower-poverty areas with better school systems, less-affluent families would be encouraged to move to these types of areas.  Boggs goes on to explain how poverty-stricken students would then receive a better education and the closing of the achievement gap would be facilitated.

To strengthen her point, Boggs mentioned a study from Montgomery County, Maryland which dealt with scattered site public housing. In the study, according to Boggs, public housing was placed in areas of high and low opportunity. It was found that students who lived in the public housing in areas of high opportunity, “cut the achievement gap in half,” as put by Boggs.  By moving the housing from its typical placement in low-opportunity areas to high-opportunity areas, students performed worlds better.  Boggs was referencing Heather Schwartz’s report Housing Policy is School Policy: Economically Integrative Housing Promotes Academic Success In Montgomery County, Maryland. Schwartz’s report does in fact confirm Boggs’s claim and further supports Boggs’s argument that housing is an integral factor in closing the achievement gap—a welcomed idea which stands out from the more typical potential fixes of the achievement gap such as racial integration, parental involvement, and accountability.

Boggs also mentioned the court case Thompson vs HUD, which took place in Baltimore County Maryland in 1994. Boggs alluded to this court case to prove that it is possible for people from segregated, low-opportunity areas to coexist with people from high-opportunity areas in the suburbs. Boggs explained that Thompson sued HUD because HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) gave out Section 8 vouchers which would cause resegregation. The court ruled in favor of Thompson and a settlement was put forth. Bogg’s describes the settlement as “advising people with Section 8 about other housing options outside of high-poverty concentrated areas.”  She then goes on to say that many people were against this idea. However, the settlement was enacted and the result was not negative, as people thought it would be. In fact, when the people with Section 8 moved outside of these areas and into suburbs with high opportunity, it was found that the suburbanites did not express opposition to the integration. Bogg’s also said that not only were most of the families and children accepted into the suburbs, they were “well acclimated into the neighborhood.”

Opportunity in CT: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success : the Report and the Discussion

The discussion on CAHS’s report was lacking information on educational topics.  CAHS’s discussion was largely based on the economic and employment problems in Connecticut and did not address education beyond the certain points made my Erin Boggs (as many of her other points were not education-based) and the points made by George Coleman (former commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education who argued that the closure of the achievement gap cannot be achieved when racial segregation is present and whose points were not center-stage).  Although the report itself did address educational issues, the discussion of the report only mildly reflected this.  The report itself was also not a piece of literature on education.  Instead, the report stated many facts about the achievement gap and then proceeded to discuss how the achievement gap affects family economic success, rather than pose too many exact solutions to the problem.

In addition, by the end of the meeting it was clear that the discussion had been just that: a discussion.  No plan of action was decided upon and nothing truly seemed to have been accomplished. Although the discussion was interesting and informative to both its audience and participants, in the end it did not produce any specific results.

Danyelle Doldoorian and Priyanka Menezes and friends

Plagiarism is Bad

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Original text: He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points. So, a teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile. The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

The “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.  A teacher who has ranked in the 43rd percentile might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile.  The values also fluctuate between years.  A teacher who gets a particular ranking in one year is likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

He found that teachers’ ranking for New York City teachers was plus or minus 28 points.  For example, a teacher that was placed in the 43rd percentile could actually be placed as low as the 15th percentile and as high as the 71st percentile.  These values are not consistent from year to year, so a teacher who gets a certain ranking in one year will probably get a different ranking the next year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

He found that teachers’ ranking for New York City teachers was plus or minus 28 points.  So a teacher that was ranked in the 43rd percentile could be ranked 28 points higher or lower in actuality.  Also the values change from year to year, and it is likely that the teacher will get a different ranking every year.  (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

He found that there was a 28 point margin of error for New York City’s teachers. So any teachers ranking could be 28 points higher or lower than they were actually ranking.  The rankings change annually and it is unlikely that a teacher’s ranking will remain constant.  (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

He found that there was a 28 point margin of error for New York City’s teachers, for example,  “teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile” (Ravitch, 270-271).  The rankings change annually and its unlikely that a teacher’s ranking will remain constant.

Works cited.

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71

Plagarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

For example if there is a teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one than they are likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

For example if there is a teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one than they are likely to get a different ranking the next year (Ravitch 270-71).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Teachers are rated on a yearly basis so it is not common for a teacher to have the same ranking each year (Ravitch 270-71).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

The value-added scores fluctuate between years. Teachers are rated on a yearly basis so it is not common for a teacher to have the same ranking each year (Ravitch 270-71).

Plagiarism Exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

So, a teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile. The value-added scores also fluctuate between years.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

There will always be unsteadiness in these rankings, some of which will mirror “real” performance changes. But it is hard to trust any performance rating if the probability of getting the same rating next year is no better than a coin toss.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

No calculation is just right, but the approximations of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to separate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores are frighteningly error-prone in any given year. Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, observed the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points (The Death and Life of the Great American School System).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

A teacher’s ranking compared to her students test scores is not always accurate.  The students could have high test scores and still have a subpar teacher.  There is a lot of error in the data that tries to explain that a teachers rankings is in correlation with her students (The Death and Life of the Great American School System).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

A teacher’s ranking compared to her students test scores is not always accurate.  The students could have high test scores and still have a subpar teacher.  There is a lot of error in the data that tries to explain that a teachers rankings is in correlation with her students, “The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss,” (The Death and Life of the Great American School System).

Fionnuala – Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

A teacher who receives a ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the following year. There will always be instability in these results, some might reflect real performance changes.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

A teacher who receives a ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the following year. There will always be instability in these results, some might reflect real performance changes (Ravitch 270-271).

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch explains that to measure a teachers professional growth from year to year is no perfect science. I believe the problem is defining a measurable variable to establish if professional growth has taken place.  She further criticizes the growth measurement system that utilizes student test scores to determine a teachers growth. She cites a New York Times economist who explains that there are large margins of errors in this type of assessment of teachers professional growth (Ravitch 270-271).

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch explains that to measure a teachers professional growth from year to year is no perfect science. I believe the problem is defining a measurable variable to establish if professional growth has taken place.  She further criticizes the growth measurement system that utilizes student test scores to determine a teachers growth. She cites New York Times economist Sean Corcoran, who explains that there are large margins of errors in this type of assessment of teachers professional growth. Corcoran says, “found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.” (Corcoran qtd in Ravitch 270-271). Ravitch continues stating, “a teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile” (Ravitch 270-271). Ravitch then compares the accuracy of educator ratings to the consistency of a coin toss. (Ravitch 270-271).

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

An instructor can receive a certain ranking one year and it can change the next. There is an inconsistency in the rankings because sometimes it will show, “real” changes.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

An instructor can receive a certain ranking one year and it can change the next. There is an inconsistency in the rankings because sometimes it will show, “real” changes. (Ravitch, 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

The method that determines a teachers rank is unreliable because of several factors that include actual change in teacher performance and the startling 28 point margin of error. Thus making  it difficult to trust the results (Ravtich, 270)

The method in which teachers’ influence on a particular student’s test score is judged is an inconsistent one. According to Sean Corcoran, an economist at NYU, “the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch, 270). Thus it is difficult to accurately determine actual teacher influence on student, improved teacher performance, or margin of error. This results in a different teacher ranking each year.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Instability in these rankings will always exist, some of which demonstrate “real” performance changes. It’s difficult to trust any performance rating if the chances of getting the same rating next year are the same as a coin toss.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston.He concluded that the average margin of error of a NYC teacher was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

As asserted by Diana Ravitch, it is hard to differentiate between a the rankings of public school teachers because there is such a large margin of error in the calculations (Ravitch 270). This margin of error makes it difficult to assess a teachers real performance.

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Assessing public school teachers is hard to do with today’s assessment tests. As Diana Ravitch writes “it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss” (Ravitch 270).

Plagiarism is Bad

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

An economist who studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points. In other words, a teachers who has ranked at the 43rd percentile compared to his or her peers might actually be anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Sean Corcoran was an economist at New York University who studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found the average margin of error for a New York City teacher in these evaluation systems was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Sean Corcoran was an economist at New York University who studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found the average margin of error for a New York City teacher in these evaluation systems was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Proving the imperfection of the teacher evaluation system, one economist found that the margin of error in the evaluation system for New York was plus or minus 28 points. This meant that, even if a teacher was ranked in the 43rd percentile, he or she could actually be between the ranks of the 15th and 71st percentile (Ravitch 270).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Because of the large margin of error in the teacher evaluation systems, and the fluctuation of scores, the author says, “it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss” (Ravitch 271). Clearly, the current system is not an accurate one.

Work Cited

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System.New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Where is the Backbone in CT’s Housing and Education Debate?

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Miguel Cardona, Susan Marks, Gary Highsmith, and Allan Taylor (Respectively from left to right) Taken by Professor Jack Dougherty

HARTFORD – On February 16, 2012, The Lyceum hosted a public forum entitled Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Can Help Close It where many individuals from both the housing and education field came together to discuss ideas and methods of bridging the achievement gap in Connecticut public schools. As the title suggests, education officials gathered as panelists to openly discuss and answer questions on Connecticut’s achievement gap in public schools, the connection between that and housing, and ways to bridge the gap. Oddly enough, despite the even attendance of housing representatives and education officials, only education officials were on the panel. Panelists Miguel Cardona (Principal and Achievement Gap Task Force Member), Susan Marks (Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools), Gary Highsmith (Principal and Achievement Gap Task Force Member), and Allan Taylor (Chair of the CT State Board of Education) publicly discussed what they see as the problem in public schools and how housing is an integral part of the solution.

What is the achievement gap in Connecticut public schools?
In order to discuss any steps to helping student achievement gaps in Connecticut, the panelists had to acknowledge what the problem is in public schools that are creating the gap. Public schools are plagued by startling differences in student academic performance which varies based on where a child lives and attends school. Children who attend public schools in wealthier neighborhoods have access to better resources than children from poorer neighborhoods. As a result children without proper educational resources like access to computers and updated textbooks end up performing lower on exams and tend to drop out along the way not attending college in comparison to their peers in neighboring cities.
Looking at the school and state district lines, one can plainly see that low student performance is closely connected with where a child lives. As a result, a landmark case came about in 1989–the landmarkcase of  Sheff v. O’Neill case. Sheff plaintiffs were disappointed that children living in low income neighborhoods, specifically Hartford, were performing at a much lower rate than children in neighboring suburbs like Avon. Alongside clear testing patterns based on geography, it was noted that these regions were segregated; most of the population in low performing cities were made up of racial minorities while better performing suburban schools were almost entirely white.

The Ties That Bind Housing and Education
Having seen the effects of the Sheff case and the flight of wealthier individuals from low income neighborhoods, education and housing officials gathered at The Lyceum to attempt to utilize their inventive skills to create the solution to the problems with education. There was almost desperation in the room to enhance the school system so that all students can have access to a better education. But in that desperation came a false belief that one single solution could solve the crisis in Connecticut public schools.

Chair of the CT State Board of Education Allan Taylor suggested in the meeting that schools use transportation funds for students to the housing system so they could enhance living situations for families. Others played around with the idea of making schools within a district unified in curriculum. After hearing several suggestions, Principal Gary Highsmith made two statements that resonated with the room:  one – that there is no real one solution to the problem and two – that the panelists and other education reformers were “substituting the wishbone for the backbone” in terms of finding solutions that would make a difference and last in the public school system. He was highlighting the fact that the panelists were expressing hopes and wants that may end up staying in the room instead of influencing legislature in some form. Highsmith encouraged bold and courageous conversations that inspire action.

What is there to take away after the forum?
Public forums are essential in voicing one’s opinion about the topic at hand and to hear thoughts and suggestions on how to solve problems. Unfortunately, this forum did not seem to provide any sense of direction. When asking Allan Taylor among others what the outcome of the discussion would be, there was heaviness to their response. Taylor openly acknowledged that solutions simply do not result from forums of this nature. It seems that the fate of Connecticut’s public school children is in the hands of “adult politics.” Instead of focusing on the needs of thousands of children around the state, officials seem to be caught up in numbers and other activities that should not come before the needs of struggling children.
Where do we go from here?

The state of which Connecticut schools are in need significant improvement, a reflection of the larger education issues across the nation. Public forums like that of today at the Lyceum demonstrates the urgency to address such inequalities like segregation and lack of educational resources. Many voiced their opinions and questions in hopes of bettering the schooling situation for children, but hoping is not action. If each representative of different organizations brought back some of what they heard from today’s discussion, something may come about. Bold discussions and forums are needed  in order to make progress; it is from these discussions that reform strategies are created and have the possibility to be implemented in Connecticut schools.

Meet the Writers

Diana Ryan and Shanese Caton. Taken by Prof. Jack Dougherty

Diana Ryan is a sophomore Human Rights major at Trinity College originally from the Bronx, New York. Shanese Caton is a sophomore Educational Studies and Political Science major at Trinity College originally from Brooklyn, New York.  Both ladies are students in Professor Jack Dougherty’s Education Reform: Past and Present course.

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

A teacher can get a different ranking score each year because of instability in rankings, which reflect real performance changes. It is difficult to believe performance ratings because they are a toss up.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Stability in rankings is inconsistent because they reflect “real” performance, so they are difficult to trust because a teacher’s ranking can change year-to-year. (Ravitch 270-271)

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

In regards to teacher evaluation, Sean Corcoran has found that there is a large fluctuation in how a teacher will be ranked year-to-year. Due to rankings being based off of performance changes that are considered, as Ravitch says “real,” they are inconsistent and therefore cannot be fully trusted. (Ravitch 270-271)

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

After studying how teachers are evaluated in both New York City and Houston, Sean Corcoran discovered that “the ‘margin of error’ of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch 270-271). This shows the significant difficulty New York City faces in ranking teachers since the margin of error is so large.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Between years, there are fluctuations in value-added scores. A teacher’s ranking is likely to change from one year to the next.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

As Ravitch says, value added rankings will always be unstable. Some changes reflect real changes in performance, but a performance ranking is hard to trust if the chances of getting the same score from one year to the next are the same as the flip of a coin (Ravitch p.271).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch explains that value added rankings are unreliable. Some of the changes that they measure reflect actual changes in performance. However, the fact that results change so significantly from year to year makes this type of assessment hard to trust (Ravitch p.271).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch explains that value added rankings are unreliable. Some of the changes that they measure reflect actual changes in performance. However, the rankings are unreliable due to the fact that the odds of getting the same results from one year to the next “are no better than a coin toss”(Ravitch p.271).

Works Cited

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing

and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

An economist at New York University, Sean Corcoran, studied the teacher evaluation systems in Houston and New York City. He found that a New York City teacher had an average “margin of error” of plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Teacher evaluations systems were studied in Houston and New York City by Sean Corcoran who is an economist at New York University. Sean Corcoran found that the average “margin of error” for a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Sean Corcoran conducted studies in New York City and Houston in regards to their teacher evaluation systems. This economist from New York University found that the average “margin of error” for the teachers specifically in New York City was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

The economist, Sean Corcoran, from New York University conducted research on teacher evaluation systems. He conducted his studies in both New York City and Houston and found that within New York City “the average ‘margin of error’ of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch, 270-271).

Plagiarism Post

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Example 1: Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 2: Sean Corcoran, who is an economist at New York University, studied systems that evaluate teachers in New York City and Houston. In New York City, he found that the average “margin of error” of a teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3:Sean Corcoran, who is an economist at New York University, has studied the teacher evaluation systems of New York City and Houston. He found that the “margin of error” of a teacher was plus or minus 28 points in New York City (Ravitch 270-271).

Example 4: An economist from New York University, Sean Corcoran, found that the error of teacher evaluation systems in New York City was about 28 points (Ravitch 270-271).

Example 5: An economist from New York University, Sean Corcoran, found that the error of teacher evaluation systems in New York City was about 28 points. To defend this claim Ravitch stated, “there will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes” (Ravitch pp. 270-271).

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Quietly Announcing A Crisis

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Fair Housing and the Achievement Gap
How one can not be accomplished without the other.

HARTFORD – In an unsuspecting building on Lawrence Street, housing and education experts, professionals, and scholars came together today to discuss and pose solutions to a crisis shaping Connecticut’s public education system; how can we achieve equitable public education without equitable housing? The Partnership for Strong Communities, (PSC), hosted the open forum, at the Lyceum Center, to facilitate a forum entitled Connecticut’s Achievement Gap: How Housing Can Help Close It, and the turn out of was impressive.

The conference room was buzzing with energy and excitement from the moment the reception began. Education and housing professionals alike were sharing theories on how to improve our current public school achievement gaps via housing in the beautiful and recently remolded space at the Lyceum Center, which is funded by The Melville Trust. Sadly, the excitement waned quickly, when the unenthusiastic Executive Director of Partnership for Strong Communities, Howard Rifkin quietly opened the forum. A forum that was bringing together two topics rarely discussed in unison. A forum supported by shocking statistics reported in a policy brief by the PSC, including that “824 children were homeless on a single night in January 2011 in Connecticut”. A forum calling urgency to the obvious crisis for the children of the state, and their educators. A forum that was disorganized, littered with inequality, and quietly introduced.

The forum agenda included two panel discussions and an address from CT Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor. The first panel included Susan Eaton, Research Director at Harvard Law School and author of The Children of Room E4, and Heather Schwartz, Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation. Schwartz polled the audience to assess how many individuals worked in housing and how many worked for in education. The response was about fifty-fifty; indicating the rarity of the inclusion and intersection of professionals in the room. While the interests of the audience were divided, even greater divides were present on stage. Both women, Eaton and Schwartz, were seated lower to the ground than facilitator Shelby Mertes, policy analyst at PSC, who was seated in a much taller stool, with his body perpendicular to the audience. Mertes spoke down at the women as they gave their expert opinions, and forcefully pushed the conversation along while inserting many of his own opinions into his questions.

Eaton spoke confidently and knowledgeably about the history of neighborhood schools in Connecticut, dating back to the 1920’s. Schwartz, gave an eye-opening summary of her research in Montgomery County, Maryland. She researched for seven years about achievement gaps in state testing of students in public housing in both “moderate” poverty neighborhoods as well as “low” poverty neighborhoods. Figures from her study show that “after two years in the district, children in public housing performed equally on standardized math tests regardless of the poverty level of the school they attended” – Heather Schwartz


Heather Schwartz’s, “Housing Policy Is School Policy: Economically Integrative Housing Promotes Academic Success in Montgomery County, Maryland”

After receiving applause from the audience for her explanation of research that defied the odds of student achievement, Mertes sarcastically poked at Schwartz asking, “how did Montgomery County do it then?” The confidence of intellect radiated off of Schwartz as she explained her study, again. Schwartz lost her train of thought during her explanation more than likely due to the conversation Mertes was having with David Fink on stage, while Schwartz was speaking. Mertes’s body language and tone left audiences wondering; does the policy analyst of PSC believe that fair housing can eradicate the achievement gap? If not where do we go from here?

The address of Education Commission Stephan Pryor separated the two panels. Energetically he bellowed to the audience that “housing and education are inextricably intertwined.” As our impassioned Commissioner of Education refueled the crowd, our host, Mertes, remained on stage. Followed by Pryor’s uplifting segment, the second panel including four working education professionals took the stage; two public school principals, a city superintendent, and a member of the CT Board of Education. They energetically put the conversation of race and money on the table. Gary Highsmith a high school principal, said in response to current education reform, “we can not make back bones out of wish bones.” Allan Taylor, Chairperson of the CT State Board of Education challenged school transportation costs in CT remarking that the Connecticut Regional Education Council spends $6,000 dollars a year per child, busing students away from their neighborhoods. This means that $72,000 dollars is spent in the school life of a child before they even arrive at school. This panel called for accountability and assigned concrete expenditures to unequal housing, and unequal education in Connecticut.

Miguel Cardona, Principal of Hanover Elementary School, Gary Highsmith, Principal of Hamden High School, Susan Marks, the Superintendent of the Norwalk Public School District, and Allan Taylor, Chairperson of the Connecticut State Board of Education and Shelby Mertes, PSC.

The forum closed with an opportunity for the audience to ask all experts from both panels any questions. Again, a divide was witnessed. This time between expert scholars, who were white females, and the second panel of education professionals. The females sat above and behind the professionals in a fashion that would be similar of a test proctor looking down at a class. A further separation of subject was even more evident when Shwarts asked the professionals about the inclusion of Advanced Placement Courses and Baccalaureate programs in high schools. Not only did the experts have to strain to turn around to answer Shwarts, it was painfully obvious that these two groups rarely engage each other.

With greater frequency one can hope these conversations will improve. No concrete solutions were provided for audience, scholar, or expert, and towards the end a circling of conversation began to develop in the room. In a state where the crisis has been identified as owning the largest achievement gap between non-low-income and low-income students in the nation, one might anticipate a greater call for rally when discussing the very barriers that prevent eradicating the crisis.

Ashley Ardinger is a senior at Trinity College majoring in Educational Studies with a minor in music.  She plans to continue working in the field of education and is currently applying to graduate programs for her Masters and teacher certification in special/bilingual education.  In her spare time, Ashley is the director of Trinity’s oldest a capella group, The Trinity Pipes.


Ashley Ardinger and Fionnuala Darby Hudgens

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

  • There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

  • Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied New York City and Houston’s teacher evaluation systems. His findings show that a New York City teacher’s average “margin of error” was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

  • Between years, the value-added scores fluctuate. It is likely that a teacher with a particular ranking one year will get a different ranking the next year (Ravitch, 270-71).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

  • Although some rankings manifest true performance changes, they are characterized as unstable (Ravitch, 270-71).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

  • Attempting to separate a teachers impact through the test scores their students produce, estimates of value-added and other “growth models” “are alarmingly error-prone (Ravitch, 270-71).”

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic Books, 2011, pp. 270-71.

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

  • A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

  • A teacher who gets a ranking of an 8 in year one is likely to get a different ranking in year two.  The instability in these rankings often reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

  • The instability in these rankings, some of which reflect “real” performance changes, will always be present often times because a teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking in year two (Ravitch, 270-71).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

  • The ranking process of teachers is generally not consistent and when a teacher receives a ranking, it does not mean that he/she will receive the same ranking the following year.  Although some of these ranking inconsistencies are simply that, some may be showing actual performance differences (Ravitch, 270-71).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

  • The ranking process of teachers is generally not consistent and when a teacher receives a ranking, it does not mean that he/she will receive the same ranking the following year.  There will always be ranking inconsistencies in the process, however some of them “will reflect “real” performance changes” (Ravitch, 270-71).

Avoiding Plagiarism

Posted on

Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

~ He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

~The value-added scores also change between years. A teacher who receives a specific ranking one year is likely to get a different ranking the next year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

~There will always be a degree of uncertainty in these rankings, some of which will reveal “real” performance changes (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

~Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, generated a study where he investigated the teacher evaluation systems in New York and Houston. His research led him to find that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points (Ravitch, 270-271)

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

~Based off Corcoran’s findings on teacher evaluations, Ravitch draws the conclusion that a teacher whose ranked in the 43rd percentile might have peers that rank“…anywhere between the 15th percentile and the 71st percentile” (Ravitch, 270-271).

Avoiding Plagiarism- Brigit Rioual

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

But it is hard to trust any performance rating if the chances of getting the similar rating next year are no better than tossing a coin.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

A teacher that who gets a certain ranking in one year is likely to get a different ranking the following year (Ravitch, 270-1).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

In the following year, a teacher could get a different ranking than the ranking they received the year before (Ravitch, 270-1).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

In the following year, a teacher could get a different ranking than the ranking they received the year before. It is hard to rely on these rankings because only some “will reflect “real” performance changes” (Ravitch, 270-1).

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

No measure is perfect, but the estimates of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to isolate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores, are alarmingly error-prone in any given year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

There is no measure that is faultless, but approximations of value-added and other models, which try to separate how the individual teacher is affected through the tests the students take, have faults during any year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

According to Diane Ravitch, there is no measure that is faultless, but approximations of value-added and other models, which try to separate how the individual teacher is affected through the tests the students take, have faults during any year (Ravitch, 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

According to Diane Ravitch, it is not right to say a teacher is a good one or not by looking at the grades his/her students get on exams (Ravitch, 270-271).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

According to Diane Ravitch, it is not right to say a teacher is a good one or not by looking at the grades his/her students get on exams.  Ravitch describes this as being “alarmingly error prone”(Ravitch, 270-271).

Posted on

Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

No measure is perfect, but the estimates of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to isolate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores, are alarmingly error-prone in any given year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

There won’t always be stability in these rankings, but some of these will reflect changes in real performance.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

It’s difficult to have faith in performance evaluations if the chance of getting the same rating the next year is about as good as the odds when you flip a coin (Ravitch 271).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

A teacher who is ranked at one level is not very likely to be ranked in the same level after the next evaluation (Ravitch 271).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

No measure is perfect, and value-added assessments have significant flaws as an evaluating tool because there is inherent “…instability in these rankings…” (Ravitch 271).

Unanimous Agreement on Reducing Red Tape

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HARTFORD, CT- On Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 2:00pm the Connecticut General Assembly Education Committee held one of their bi-weekly meetings at the Connecticut State Capitol and Legislative Office Building (LOB).

The meeting was briefly introduced by Co-Chair Andrew Fleischmann and Co-Chair Andrea Stillman where they spoke of future plans for the Education Committee meetings as they move forward in the next few months with the discussion of Governor Malloy’s monumental education reform package. One of the first questions raised was in regards to providing relief for consistently high performing districts in regards to the mandates that have been placed upon them by the state. Fleischmann stated that this topic was to be discussed on Tuesday, February 21st, but that for these high performing districts red tape reduction is a priority.

In discussing education reform, the term “red tape” is frequently mentioned, especially in how government officials want to reduce red tape. However, before one can understand why the reduction of red tape is important, it is important to be aware of what red tape refers to. In regards to education, red tape is unnecessary regulation to formal rules that prevents active decision-making. Frequently, red tape hinders the growth of schools, as well as with job creation for teachers and the government’s ability to provide efficient services to schools. If red tape is not reduced it can lead to inefficiencies, inflexible regulations, and lengthy delays in processing. To maintain the high standards that Governor Malloy sets in his bill, red tape must be reduced.

Governor Malloy’s red tape reduction proposal involves reforms the Education Committee plans to discuss in the coming weeks. The proposal suggests the reduction of state control on schools due to the restrictions their mandates and regulations create on teachers. Malloy states that, “our state’s school districts should be focused on raising student achievement and preparing our students for success in college and in a career, not on navigating overly burdensome state policies.” The proposal to reduce red tape will be implemented in two phases. The first phase focusing on both the quality and certification of teachers as well as easing data reporting requirements. The second phase will consist of forming a seven-member “Red Tape Review and Removal Taskforce.” This taskforce will gain input from the people red tape is effecting the most including, teachers, superintendents, and parents, in order to determine solutions to certain unnecessary mandates and regulations placed on schools by the state.

Overall, the organization of the meeting was direct in its agenda, showing exactly what topics were going to be covered in the meeting and what committee concepts were going to be raised. To begin the meeting Co-Chair Fleischmann addressed the short agenda as being brief “because the primary focus is on education reform and spending a lot of time on the 160 page bill that the Governor presented” in future meetings. Nevertheless, Fleischman did make a few brief remarks to the concepts of the meeting when questions were addressed to him from members of the Education Committee. One Committee member questioned whether the inclusion of CPR and AED training, the inclusion of labor history, and the inclusion of personal financial management in the public school curriculum were going to be mandatory for high schools in Connecticut. Fleischmann was able to inform this member that though one day he has hopes of being voted on to become mandatory, as of now these concepts can be voluntarily added to the public school curriculum.

The question and answer period was brief, but it was followed by the most remarkable part of the meeting. When Co-Chair Fleischmann asked the committee whether it wanted to raise each concept, the committee was in unanimous agreement for every one.

In regards to future Education Committee meetings in the coming week, Fleischmann provided the committee with a brief agenda. Tuesday, February 21st, will be “policy day” and the discussion will include topics such as, teachers, certification, performance evaluation, recruitment of teachers, professional development, and any other topics that do not involve finance. Wednesday, February 22nd, will discuss finance, funding of charter and magnet schools, charts and accounts, ECS and all other related topics that contain a nexus with finance.

Reported by Trinity College students Taylor Godfrey and Devon MacGillivray

Taylor.Godfrey@trincoll.edu, Devon.MacGillivray@trincoll.edu

Taylor and Devon reporting at the Connecticut State Capitol and Legislative Office Building (LOB)

Connecticut General Assembly Education Committee Meeting

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 at 2:00pm

A special thanks to Mark Noon the Supervisor of Operations for the State Department of Education for providing us with parking and directions to the LOB.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

It seems that no measure is perfect, but the estimates of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to isolate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores, are alarmingly error-prone in any given year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Evaluating teacher effectiveness, by estimating value-added or other growth models based on students test scores, is not reliable. Teacher evaluation studies in two major US cities have shown large margins of error in percentile ranking (up to 28 points plus or minus). These scores change year to year.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Evaluating teacher effectiveness, by estimating value-added or other growth models based on students test scores, is not reliable. Teacher evaluation studies in two major US cities have shown large margins of error in percentile ranking (up to 28 points plus or minus). These scores change year to year (Ravitch 270-71).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch says that evaluating teacher effectiveness, by estimating value-added or other growth models based on students test scores, is not reliable. Teacher evaluation studies in two major US cities have shown large margins of error in percentile ranking (up to 28 points plus or minus). These scores change year to year (Ravitch 270-71).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch says that evaluating teacher effectiveness, by estimating value-added or other growth models based on students test scores, is not reliable. “Sean Corcoran, an economist at New York University, studied the teacher evaluation systems in New York City and Houston. He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.” These scores change year to year (Ravitch 270-71).

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York:             Basic Books, 2011.

Plagiarism exercise

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Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

Truly, no measure is perfect.  But the estimates of value-added and other “growth models,” which attempt to isolate the “true effect” of an individual teacher through his or her students’ test scores, are alarmingly error-prone in any given year.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

Sean Corcoran, who is an economist at New York University, has studied the teacher evaluation systems in Houston and New York City. His studies found that the average “margin of error” of a teacher in New York City was plus or minus 28 whole points.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

Therefore, a teacher who has ranked at the 43rd percentile in comparison to his or her peers may really be anywhere between the 15th and 71st percentile (Ravitch 270-271). 

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Due to fluctuation for value-added scores, teachers will likely receive different scores over several years.  One year he or she may have a good ranking, and the next he or she may have a bad ranking (Ravitch 270-271). 

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch points out that the rankings will never be stable.  Some of the value-added assesments may show accurate performance changes, but many will not.  Ravitch says, “it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss,” (Ravitch 270-271). 

Waiting for “Superman”

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Waiting for “Superman”

In 2010, Waiting for “Superman” was released. The filmmaker, David Guggenheim and his team followed five children and their families throughout the country as they waited for the lottery to go to their chosen charter schools, to escape “dropout factories” aka, public schools. The documentary presents reformers and educators throughout the country who believe that quality teachers are what will make the difference and save education.

This is a very short synopsis of the movie, and to many critics, the message is flawed. In this film, Waiting for “Superman” Guggenheim, the filmmaker, through the chosen families and the facts and figures he shows, gives a one sided story of educational reforms in the last decade. Based on his opinion, and the educators and reformers he interviews, to have great schools, you need great teachers, and then everything will fall into place. Through his opinions, he persuades the audience that bad teachers and unions are the problem, and this is what needs to change to get quality schools again.

While watching the film, hard facts and figures are constantly being presented. Since 1971, educational spending per student has almost doubled, yet the reading and math scores since then have remained about the same. By picking and choosing facts such as these, Guggenheim is hooking the reader and persuading them that this is just one of the many issues in education today that he believes needs to be fixed. In addition, in Illinois, only 1 in 2500 teachers get fired, however, 1 in 57 doctors have lost their medical license. By presenting these figures, Guggenheim is showing the problem with unions and how they are preventing quality teachers and high performances from the students, one of Guggenheim’s arguments throughout the film. Moreover, Guggenheim wants to present the reality of the educational system and how harsh it is.

Besides the facts and figures presented in the film, Guggenheim has chosen five students throughout the country who have high aspirations for themselves and are applying to charter schools. The families of the students are struggling to find their children better schools so they can have better opportunities while some of the students are also struggling in school at the same time. One of the students, Francisco, is a great example of Guggenheim’s argument that teachers are what matter. Francisco’s mother is constantly being shown writing letters to his teacher and making calls, however, his mother never hears back from his teacher. She has been told by teachers her son needs help in reading, but when she takes him to a private tutor, they say he is doing well. Another student, Emily, although from a wealthy background unlike the other four students, has been placed into the lower tracking. Tracking supports Guggenheim’s argument that teachers matter because lower tracking means teachers have lesser expectations from their students and therefore do not have to try to teach as hard as other teachers who teach in high tracking classes.

In addition to the five students, Geoffery Canada and Michelle Rhee, two reformers, are presented in this film and because there is such a large emphasis on them both, it persuades the audience to listen to their ideals and believe in their strategies to reform schools. Canada and Rhee both believe in having quality teachers, and Rhee even fired a high number of teachers and principals in DC to help raise the quality of the schools and hire more “competent” teachers.

Through showing the facts, and the families, Guggenheim persuades the audience and shows his intended goals for the film. The story that the filmmaker wanted to show was that the education of the U.S is in jeopardy. The facts show how money is being spent poorly, and how few teachers get fired because of tenure. The families show you how difficult it is to change schools, and how important it is for their children to have great teachers. Guggenheim wanted to make this documentary because he realized how lucky he was to be able to have the free choice of sending his children to whatever schools he wanted them to go to. He wanted to learn what happens to those families that have no choice, because every child deserves a great education. Guggenheim wanted to get across reformers’ beliefs, such as Rhee and Canada, that teachers are what will change the system (waitingforsuperman.com, 2010).

One scene that I thought was particularly important to helping Guggenheim support his argument was when he showed the clip from the Simpsons. The teacher announces that she just was given tenure; therefore, she would sit at her desk and read a magazine while a student taught the class instead. She did this because she is protected now by tenure, and therefore doesn’t need to try. I thought this was very important to the film because it showed Guggenheim and the reformer’s beliefs that teachers need to be constantly assessed and be high performing. However, tenure blocks the ability to fire low performing teachers, and some teachers begin to become low performing because tenure protects them. Therefore, this particular teacher would now be difficult to fire.

Although Guggenheim realizes there is a problem with the system, the film is highly criticized. Gerald Tirozzi in Education Digest criticizes the chosen students in the film because they have the importance of education reinforced in their homes. But, Tirozzi asks, “What of the students who don’t have that advantage? They don’t appear in the film” (Tirozzi, 2010). Tirozzi also criticizes the fact that Guggenheim shows all of these students escaping public schools to go to charter schools, yet Guggenheim’s states that he is not pro-charter. In addition, Tirozzi notes that although the depiction of the film is that charter schools are the answer, that is not so and there are high performing public schools all throughout the country, even in poor, urban areas. In addition, Tirozzi discusses that public schools are being avoided in this film, while most of the nations students go there. Teachers, unions and charter schools are not the only answer. (Tirozzi, 2010).

Another critic of this film, Elizabeth Dutro, discusses Canada and his own program, Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides students with, for example, free medical, dental, and parenting sessions. By providing these things at schools, Canada is showing that “schools are only one key ingredient in a much larger mix of social services necessary to mitigate the impact of multi-generational poverty in some urban neighborhoods” (Dutro, 2011). In addition, she argues that poverty is virtually ignored throughout this film and the film “never addresses anti-poverty measures as potential solutions” This movie ignores the structure of poverty and it’s impact on education. Finally, “the solutions offered by the film are simplified, ignore research evidence, and are too often built on false assumptions that undermine the need to examine the systemic inequities and consequential reforms and policies that surround schooling in the United States” (Dutro, 2011).

Diane Ravitch, another critic of Waiting for “Superman” and an educational reformer and educator, points out the flaws in her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. To Ravitch, Guggenheim and his film left out important facts. For one, “50 percent of those who enter teaching leave within five years” therefore showing that it is not impossible to fire teacher (Ravitch, 2010, 255). Tenure simply grants the “right to a hearing before he or she may be terminated” (Ravitch, 2010, 255). Ravitch also discusses the fact that spending has increased per student, but it is because more spending has gone to special education services (Ravitch, 2010, 256).

Both Tirozzi, Dutro and Ravitch discuss what was left out in this film and how Guggenheim simply ignored these facts to make his argument stronger and more persuasive. By ignoring students with little reinforcement at home, by ignoring high performing public schools in poor areas, by ignoring the structure of poverty and the structure of social services, by ignoring special education, by ignoring the problems with standardized testing, by ignoring social class, Guggenheim can make his argument that teachers and unions are what need to be fixed to make better schools. Guggenheim himself has chosen private schools for his own children, and Guggenheim has chosen to follow five children who are applying to charter schools, yet Guggenheim ignores all of the children who don’t apply to charter schools, and ignores all of the children who remain in public schools and do well. This movie attracted families who are trying to escape public schooling, however, pubic schools accept anyone and everyone, while charter schools don’t. And when children no longer can attend charter schools, they are back to public schooling. Guggenheim ignores all of this throughout this film and makes it seem, even if it was not intended, as if charter schools are the answer to find better quality teachers since public schools are linked to unions. However, public schooling is the foundation of education in America and will always accept all types of students.

Throughout this film, Guggenheim persuades his audience that bad schools and unions are the problem with America’s education by ignoring the other problems with education previously discussed. His chosen students and reformers show a basic solution to a larger problem of education. However, through those students and reformers, Guggenheim is successful at presenting and persuading his argument that to have great schools, we must have great teachers.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing
And Choice are Undermining Education. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

Tirozzi, G. N. (2010). Is superman the conversation we need? The
Education Digest, 76(4), 23-25.http://search.proquest.com/docview/819517118?accountid=14405

Dutro, E. (2011). Review of “waiting for superman”.National Education
Policy Center. School of Education 249 UCB University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309. http://nepc.colorado.edu. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/860366018?accountid=14405

Davis Guggenheim. Waiting for “Superman.” Video documentary,
2010. http://www.waitingforsuperman.com.

On “Waiting for ‘Superman'”

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Waiting for “Superman” is a documentary on the American public schools system released in 2010.  The film follows five children and their concerned parents beginning with their current situations in declining public schools and concludes dramatically with each family participating in a lottery admissions system for an elite charter school they expect will insure their children enjoy a life better than the one their parents and guardians enjoy.  The film not only depicts the process by which these families try and do right by their children, it also describes the narrative of decline the films producers, including famed writer and director Davis Guggenheim (24, An Inconvenient Truth) see as plaguing our nation’s public schools.

The film’s highly anticipated release occurred in September 2010, and prior to, and after its release it captivated the world of education policy.  The film was featured on the cover of Time, discussed on Oprah, and NBC devoted an entire week of programming to covering the films themes and heroes (Ravitch 252).  The films backers included the largest and most influential of foundations, and Bill Gates, one of the films experts, so successfully publicized the film through a $2 million donation (Ravitch 252).  In addition, the five children featured in the film were invited to the White House to meet President Obama after its release (Ravitch 252).  The films audience is primarily concerned parents and teachers (films website), and it is designed to show that the nation’s public schools are in a state of disrepair because their rigid design of 50 years is not compatible with contemporary economic and societal realities.  Schools are designed to “track” to insure that some kids go to college and others are prepared for entry into lower levels of employment, training or academia.  In a modern economy where almost everyone needs a college degree to insure success, the film argues that our educational system is neither prepared enough nor capable of achieving high rates of college acceptance.

If the current school system is the problem, then why not change it to make it more successful?  The film argues that the system has inherent hurdles that impede reform efforts, especially teachers unions.  The structure of the film highlights the current state of our system, contrasting it with how successful it was in the 1970’s.  ***Which, by the way, is a complete fallacy; we have never had the best school system in the world (Ravitch 249)*** As seen in the screenshot below they do an excellent cinematic job of showing the sad state of contemporary schools, utilizing dark music, dark colors and moving animated graphics to show just how bad our schools are today (seen at 0:18).

From there, the film showcases trailblazing charter school visionaries as the only people that can save our schools, our children and our society.  Specifically mentioned are Washington D.C.’s SEED boarding school program, Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Success Academy, a newer suburban San Francisco charter school and the renowned Knowledge Is Power Programs, or KIPP schools.  The film is clearly designed to be a pro-charter school documentary with an anti-union focus (it specifically vilifies unions as one of the chief causes behind failing public schools) and it struck a powerful chord with the nation upon its release, although it was met with academic skepticism.  Several of the key facts stated in the film are only half-truths that, when exposed, attenuate their arguments.

First and foremost is the half-truth stated in the film’s first chart.   While America has doubled funding to public schools, it has gotten little to no positive output from said funding.  This statistic is crucial to the film’s argument that our school system, as currently constructed, is unable to break through the “achievement barrier” and carry America into the 21st century.  The truth of the matter is more complicated than indicated by the film however, and academics from across the field have criticized Waiting for “Superman” for this factual error.  The full truth is that the increased funds came with increased burdens for schools, as federal laws, economic realities, the drug trade and immigration patterns have brought a whole host of “high needs students” into public schools.  These students require tremendous resources to insure a proper education, but their lower academic ability causes test scores to suffer in public schools.  In contrast, charter schools can deny admission to “high needs students” or can counsel them out of their schools.  This has a double-edged affect on the comparison between traditional public and charter schools.  It results in charter schools skimming off the best, brightest, richest and most motivated students from public schools through lotteries and school choice (only knowledgeable parents have the wherewithal to enter their children in the lottery), and ends with public schools having the less motivated, higher needs students that charter schools do not admit (Ravitch 253-255).  If this trend persists, charters might outperform public schools, but their demographics will be starkly dissimilar.  Furthermore, the vast majority of charters are less successful than comparable public schools, and the system itself is fraught with waste, fraud and carelessness (Ravitch 141-143, The Myth of Charter Schools).

All in all, policymakers at local, state and federal levels have responded to the charter school movements well publicized “success” (even though the film admits only 1 of 5 charters achieves “amazing” levels of success promised by nearly all charter applicants) by increasing their charter licensing and by increasing funding to charter schools.  Programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top use charter schools as either the example for success or as the avenue through success can be achieved when all else fails, and those decisions are supported by the dynamic cinematography and half-truths espoused by Waiting for “Superman”.  Needless to say, those who see charter schools as the future of schooling responded positively to the film.  The film’s sharp critiques have also been received by policymakers, and are increasing funding not just to increase the number of charter schools, but also to insure they admit the same demographic as traditional public schools do (Megan 1).

Overall, Waiting for “Superman”, despite its strong critics in the academic world, has had a tremendous impact on educational policy.  While it is obviously difficult to draw a correlation between recent increases in charter school funding and the film specifically, it is clear that the views espoused by the film are part of a growing wave of public opinion against traditional public schools and for charter schools, although said wave of opinion is most surely ill-informed on the subject given the dearth of evidence showing the ill-fated future of the vast majority of charter schools.  Ultimately, the film is not touting failing corporate charter schools however, but instead favors schools that have longer hours, increased attention for students, smaller classes and better teachers, although even two of the largest programs mentioned in the film (KIPP and HCZ) have had several well-publicized failures along with their successes.  The film has biases that might not be clear to the average viewer that does not research the film’s funding (especially with the vehemently pro-charter Gates Foundation), and half-truths that are most likely left unnoticed by the majority of viewers.  In the end, the film is most certainly influential, but given the lack of emphasis on telling the WHOLE story with regards to charters or on telling the entire truth with regards to the traditional public school system, and teacher’s unions (especially with teacher tenure), it is probably as manipulative as it is influential.

Works Cited

Megan, Kathleen. “Charter Schools Vow To Broaden Their Enrollment.” The Hartford

Courant Online. 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-charters-support-malloy-0210-20120209,0,7200798.story>.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing

and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

Ravitch, Diane. “The Myth of Charter Schools.” The New York Times [New York] 13

Jan. 2011, New York Times Book Review sec. The New York Review of Books. The New York Times, 2011. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/?pagination=false>.

Waiting for Superman. Dir. Davis Guggenheim. By Billy Kimball. Prod. Diane

Weyermann. Participant Media, Walden Media, 2010. DVD. Trinflix. Trinity College, Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://internet2.trincoll.edu/streammanager/Viewer.aspx>.

Agriscience Schools Left Out of State Funding

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February, 10, 2012. 6:24pm EST.
By Pornpat Pootinath and Jessica Schlundt

HARTFORD- Earlier this week, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced his plans to increase support for public schools of choice in Connecticut. His proposal devotes $128 million to reform the state’s education system and to narrow the achievement gap. The plans seems to increase state funds to many public school options such as charters, magnets, CommPACT schools, but not agricultural science schools.

On Friday, February 10, 2012, the CT State Board of Education met to hear input from the community regarding the governer’s plan addressing funding for the state public schools.

Nonnewaug Makes a Plea

Members of the Nonnewaug High School appeared before the school board to request increased funding for its regional agricultural educational center. Nonnewaug High School is a regional public high school in Woodbury, which offers an Agriscience and Technology magnet program that serves many surrounding towns.

Each year approximately 180 students apply for only 90 spots. The school struggles to provide enough spots for the increasing number of applicants who apply. A senior high school student named Abigail Rey spoke, and wished more students could benefit from the program like herself. She said, “Unfortunately, 1,100 kids are going to be denied acceptance because there is not enough funding”. She spoke on the behalf of the students who could not attend due to lack of funding.

The staff of Nonnewaug High School also expressed the need for more students to participate in the nationally recognized program. As it is, the directors are left with no option but to deny students unless state funds are increased. They hope politicians will see the apparent need for increased funding.

As a result, this year 93 eighth-graders were rejected from the school, although many are well qualified. All the open choice schools have seen increases in funding with the exception of the agriscience program. Members of the Nonnewaug High School speak strongly on the success and need for the agriscience program.

The Agriscience and Technology program requires students to work or volunteer 200 hours per year at an agriculture-related or business program. Students in the program learn animal science, plant science, agricultural mechanics, and natural resources.

Support from the Community

Robert Peterson is a junior high school student enrolled in all Honors and AP (Advanced Placement) courses. His participation in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) program has benefited him greatly. The school offered him multiple opportunities inside and outside of the school. He hopes to attend Boston College to pursue political science and environmental law, and minor in environmental science. “If our agriculture program gets more funding, more students will have the opportunity to participate in CT agriculture programs”. Currently, the program enrolls 3,200 students, but has the potential to serve a thousand more students.

A female high school student commutes from Danbury to Woodbury to attend the school. Like many students, she believes that the agricultural education helps prepare for her career interest. She said, “The agriculture program helped my sister who currently is attending Cornell because the college recognized the outstanding record of the program at her high school through FFA, and the college noticed how much the program did for her.” “It has been a special role in my life to explore new careers and what I want to do. In order for students to be more a part of this amazing program, please help obtain the adequate funding to do so.”

William Davenport, director of The Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program at Nonnewaug High School is one of the many advisors for the Woodbury for the Future of Agriculture, as well as a member of the State Board of Education. Davenport notes that agriculture is the nation’s largest employer, with more than 23 million jobs, which is 17 percent of the civilian workforce. He emphasized the importance of providing agriculture education so that we can do less hiring from overseas and employ workers that are here and ready to learn and contribute. He believes that people get the wrong impression that agriculture is dying, but in fact the industry is growing and in need of productive workers. He also mentioned some of the skills that are taught, such as “creative problem solving, articulation of ideas, team involvement, record keeping, imagination, leadership, solid understanding of science and mathematics, and most importantly reliability – these are the life skills that make them not only solid students and employees, but all the skills that would enable them to succeed throughout their careers.”

Jennifer Ayers, a licensed veterinary technician at the Cat’s Corner Veterinary Hospital in Southbury for over 20 years and graduate of the program, is a parent of two 14-year olds who currently attend the school. She is in charge of hiring. Cat’s Corner is 15 minutes away from Nonnewaug High School. “We practice very high quality medicine and we hire the best and only the best people. 90% of our staff are graduates from Nonnewaug High School. From an employer’s perspective, the quality of applicants that come to us from the background of the FFA program surpass any other schools.” These resources are important for students going through the program.

Reported by Trinity College students: Pornpat Pootinath and Jessica Schlundt

Pornpat.Pootinath@trincoll.edu, Jessica.Schlundt@trincoll.edu

Pornpat and Jessica reporting at the State Office Building
State Board of Education Meeting
Friday, Feb. 10th at 9:30 am

Are McGuffey Readers still used to educate children today?

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The First McGuffey Reader

Our source detective question asked: McGuffey’s Readers series is one of the most popular textbooks of the nineteenth-century common school era. (See an 1879 digitized edition on Google Books). Is this series of books still in print and used to educate children today? Be sure to describe your search strategy.

The McGuffey’s Readers are a set of academic textbooks that were used originally in United States schools starting in 1836.  The material ranges from early schooling and learning the beginning aspects of the alphabet, to connecting “ religious, moral, and ethical principles” (The McGuffey Readers Centers) to promote a population of good, American citizens.  These set of readers were written by William Holmes McGuffey who was born in 1800 in Pennsylvania.  By combining the McGuffey family’s emphasis on education with the importance of religion, William was able to create these readers, which were said to help “shape American character.” (The McGuffey Readers Center)

In an example of the McGuffey reader from a revised edition in 1879, it shows the how the lessons emphasize both correct English grammar, as well as a strong religious belief and a strong understanding of what an American is.  At the introduction of this reader the first lesson emphasizes articulation in the English language.  They say that “articulation is the utterance of the elementary sounds of a language and of their combinations.” (McGuffey, 9) As the 1879 McGuffey reader continues, there are more examples of literature from the time in essays and in poetry.  Page 91 on the Googlebook digital reader has a poem called “What I live For”, which is a perfect example of emphasizing the type of American citizens that McGuffey readers aimed to shape. (McGuffey, 91)

In today’s society, although the McGuffey readers are no longer as popular in American schools as they were in the 19th century, there is still a population of loyal McGuffey followers.  The video below (link missing) is an example of how these textbooks have been edited and updated throughout the years to be available to the following of mostly home-schooled students and Christian academies.  The basic alphabetical rules and writing and reading strategies presented in the early stages of the McGuffey readers have been preserved to teach a small constituency of young students in today’s society. (The McGuffey Readers Center)

Today, there is an app available on iTunes, “Phonics and Reading” designed based on the McGuffey Primer textbook. A few features of the app includes 52 lessons of the McGuffey Primer, 44 letter sounds of English and more than 400 practice vocabulary words. The latest version of the series was last printed in 2010 published by both General Books and Applewood Books. There are also eAudiobooks available published by Mission Audio in 2010.

Search Process:

First, we started by using Google and the main history page on McGuffey’s site (http://mcguffeyreader.com) in order to find any background information and history on the McGuffey’s Reader series. Here we found the purpose of the series, the year published, material included and a video of how the textbooks are edited and updated today. We also scheduled an appointment with a librarian at the library. During our appointment, following are the steps the librarian took in order to find any additional information:

To get some background information on the reader, the librarian looked at Wikipedia. This brought him to this article. This article has some really good history in it. However, it might be a little biased. It is from Liberty University’s digital archive. It seems academic; but, Liberty is a very conservative Christian university.

To ascertain whether the book is still published, the librarian searched WorldCat (which is a database that searches most academic libraries around the world). He searched the title field on the advanced search page, using “McGuffey Eclectic Reader” as his search phrase. Here is the URL to the search results.

He then sorted the results by date descending, so that the most recent edition appeared at the top of the list. As we discovered, the most recent edition is from 2010. Here’s a link to a partial-view of the 2010 edition on Google Books.

(Formatting and links edited by Jack Dougherty, January 2013)

Works Cited

  1. McGuffey, William Holmes. McGuffey’s Fifth Eclectic Reader. Cincinnati: Bragg&Company, 1879. Google Book Search. Web. 30 Jan 2012.
  2. “The McGuffey Readers Center.” McGuffey’s Readers World. McGuffey Readers. Web. 30 Jan 2012.
  3. “Introduction to McGuffey Readers World Website.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 30 Jan 2012.
  4. “McGuffey Readers.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 30 Jan 2012.

Where can you find Common School teachers’ letters?

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Question: In her 2003 book, historian Nancy Hoffman published letters written by nineteenth-century teachers such as Ellen Lee and Mary Adams, which were located in an archive. How can you find similar letters (or diaries) written by other teachers from this era? Describe your search strategy (but obtaining the actual letters is not required).

Option One (requires prior knowledge)

This particular source detective work, to explain how to find actual letters or diaries written by nineteenth century school teachers, lead me first to Google. The original source provided by Jack, Woman’s “true” profession : voices from the history of teaching by Nancy Hoffman, cited in the chapter heading, that the letters were from a collection at the Connecticut Historical Society. In the Cities Suburbs and Schools seminar  I learned about the Connecticut Historical Society and was taught that they did have an online presence, as well as some material available on line.

1. Open your computer, then an Internet browser of your choice, and type in www.google.com into the address bar at the top of the screen.

2. When the google window appears, in the large search bar provided, type “Connecticut Historical Society”.

3. The search will produce many findings, the second option was what I was looking for. I was aware the museum was located in Hartford and the address to the right of the website title alerted me that this was indeed the Hartford Historical Society of Hartford, Connecticut. (Reason number 724,356 to LOVE Google.)

4. After selecting the second option I was able to see the website for the Connecticut Historical Society.

5. On the top of the page there is a menu bar, click on the one titled “Research”. Then click on the link “online database and subject databases” and search “National Board of Popular Education Collection”.

6. Only one option was returned in the search and it was indeed a letter! The summary description of the source explains that this is exactly what I am looking for. It was not available to view online so I will need to go the library to view it. You can use Google Maps for driving or walking directions to the Connecticut Historical Society.

Option Two (Assumes comfort with navigating the internet and access to Trinity College databases.)

Ask a Librarian

As students at Trinity College we are fortunate to have easy access to librarians. The first step is to make an appointment with them. Here.

Screen Shot of Trinity College Website

2. I selected the librarian I wanted to work with, and then a time I he and I were both available. Finally, I pasted the assignment instructions into the question box that asks “What is your research topic?” and I was all set. I received an email confirmation of the appointed that was easy to insert into my Google Calender.

3. My appointment was with Rob Walsh, and he also believed starting with Nancy Hoffman’s book was a good idea. We searched for it in the library catalouge using the advanced search option.

4. Rob informed me that the subjects listed underneath the comments section of the book are actually in all the libraries. Meaning that libraries categorize all their holdings of specific subjects in the same way.

Screen Shot of Trinity College library advance search.

5. Rob insisted using the specific vernacular of the library subject to search World Cat. “WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information” (WorldCat website).

6. When we search “Women teachers–United States–History”, our search produced thousands of results, but more importantly many were a part of Trinity’s collection. The first book listed, Women Teachers on the Frontier by Polly Welts Kaufman is described as, “collected reminiscences tell the story of the single women who travelled to the West as teachers before the Civil War.” This is what I was looking for!

7. In the spirit of Rob’s “serendipitous finding” I went to the call number of the book and found a shelf of texts related to the subject.

Option Three (Unexplored)

Trinity College does have a database of primary source documents, oral historys, and videos etc. I did not utilize this data base because I felt that I had enough to start with. The database can be found here.