Archive | April, 2012

Hartford to Implement New Teacher Eval System


By David Medina, Special to The Hartford Guardian

HARTFORD — Beginning with the next academic year, Hartford Public Schools will join a small but growing number of districts in the nation to implement a new, more effective and meaningful teacher evaluation system that promises to inspire teachers to do their best and to increase student achievement.

A 19-member committee of principals, teachers, central office administrators and officials of the Hartford Federation of Teachers reached agreement on the system in March after 18 months of dialogue and planning.

Officials said the most appealing feature of the system is that it measures a teacher’s performance on a consistent and quantifiable standard, leaving little room for subjective judgments. Everyone is on the same page around expectations of quality. Each teacher’s professional development, moreover, is then individually tailored to what the evaluation records as needing improvement.

The agreement between teachers and administrators is seen as a remarkably achievement.

“We will continue to develop as an employer of choice where top educators want
to be part of our community, part of our system of schools,” said  Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto. “The bottom line is to make everyone a better educator for students.”

The new evaluation system comes just weeks after the Connecticut Board of Education established conceptual guidelines for teacher evaluations statewide. Under those guidelines, student achievement would account for 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and test scores would account for half of student achievement.
“I’ve never seen a concerted effort in a district this size to make sure that people
are standardized and consistent in terms of teacher evaluations,” said Hartford Public
Schools Chief Talent Officer Jennifer Allen, who chaired the Committee on Instructional
Excellence that recommended the system. “If we’re really going to improve student
achievement, we have to be able to identify good practices and push for better and best
practices.”

The system, also known as the “Framework for Teaching”, was designed by internationally recognized teaching expert Charlotte Danielson and is made available exclusively through Teachscape, an online provider of professional development products. The Hartford Board of Education recently approved a $940,753 contract with Teachscape to phase in the system over three years.

The Danielson Framework is currently being used in the New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh school systems and in many small schools districts. Hartford is the first school district in Connecticut to use it. The framework has been approved as a default model in the states of Delaware, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Indiana and Pennsylvania. New York State, New Jersey, Florida, Washington, Oklahoma and Oregon have also approved it as one of several teacher
evaluation tools that districts can adopt.

Online and in-person training for school administrators, who must pass a certification test in the proper use of the system, will run through the remainder of spring and summer. A nucleus of 35 teachers will also be trained and will be responsible for turning around that training to their peers. The online training includes videos of bad, good and best teaching practices.

The Danielson system divides 21 specific and measurable teaching practices into four main categories or domains: Planning and Preparation (i.e. demonstrating knowledge of content); Classroom Environment (i.e. establishing a culture for learning); Instruction (i.e. using questioning and discussion techniques); and Professional Responsibilities (i.e. communicating with families).

Corinne M. Clark, Hartford’s 2010 Teacher of the Year and a member of the Committee on Instructional Excellence, gave the Danielson Framework a ringing endorsement.

“While the team was in the process of selecting an evaluation tool, I took the Danielson Framework home for review,” Ms. Clark said. “I have been using its strategies ever since and I have noticed a drastic change in my classroom conversation as well as in student written responses. I believe this rubric will aid all of us in becoming the best educators we can be through constant reflection and personal growth.”

The Danielson Framework, implemented in Chicago Public Schools in 2008, was the subject of an extensive study in 2011 by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. The study found that the framework not only improved learning, but was widely accepted as a fair and reliable measure of teaching ability.

Students showed the greatest growth in test scores in classrooms where teachers received the highest ratings and groups of trained experts who observed the same lesson tended to give the teacher identical ratings.
“I am very happy that teachers, principals and administrators were able to work collaboratively over 18 months to come up with a solution,” said Hartford Federation of Teachers President Andrea Johnson. “The other thing I’m happy about is that administrators are all going to be tested and calibrated, which will make for much fairer evaluations.

I especially want to congratulate the Hartford Board of Education members, who read about the system, talked about it and eventually agreed to go along with it.”

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Quinnipiac Poll: Connecticut Loves New York Yankees over Boston Red Sox


HAMDEN, CT — Connecticut baseball fans back the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox 43 – 38 percent, the fourth straight year of Yankee dominance in the state, according to Quinnipiac University’s annual Connecticut Baseball Poll.

While the Red Sox are the favorites, 46 – 34 percent, of fans over 65 years old, the Bronx Bombers lead in other age groups, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.  Women fans prefer the Yankees 45 – 39 percent while men back the Bombers 42 – 37 percent.

A total of 53 percent of Connecticut adults say they are “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in Major League Baseball.  Trailing the Yankees and Red Sox in that group are the New York Mets with 7 percent.  No other team scores above 1 percent.

The Yankees are on top 54 – 18 percent in Fairfield County and 46 – 36 percent in New Haven and Middlesex Counties, while the Red Sox lead 47 – 37 percent in Hartford County and 57 – 29 percent in Tolland, Windham and New London Counties.

“The New York Yankees have topped the Boston Red Sox in every one of Quinnipiac University’s 10 annual polls of Connecticut baseball fans, except for a 41 – 40 percent split, tipping to the Red Sox, in 2008,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.  “The Yankees lead is due to their big advantage in Fairfield County.  The Yankees continue to do better among younger fans while the Red Sox are stronger among older fans.”

From April 18 – 23, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,933 Connecticut adults with a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.   Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones.

The Quinnipiac University Poll conducts public opinion surveys in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and the nation as a public service and for research.

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CT Senate Expands Scope of Jobs Bill


HARTFORD — A plan to build on and expand the job-creating momentum of October’s landmark Jobs Bill was debated and passed in the state Senate on Friday.

Senate Bill 1, “An Act Concerning Jobs and the Economy,” expands state workforce and small business development programs, provide incentives to hire post-9/11 combat veterans, promotes Connecticut’s economic and cultural assets, and seeks to reward businesses that are willing to relocate jobs from overseas back to Connecticut, according to Sen.  Eric D. Coleman (D-Bloomfield).

The vote on Friday comes as reports show that Connecticut is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate in three years; since January, Connecticut has added 10,500 new jobs.

One of the hallmarks of the bipartisan October Jobs Bill was the Small Business Express program, which set aside $100 million in state loans and grants over two years for small manufacturers, especially those in precision manufacturing, business services, green and sustainable technology, and bioscience and information technology.

So far, more than 500 small businesses in Connecticut have applied for Small Business Express assistance; 38 loans totaling $32 million have already been approved, creating 193 new jobs and retaining 213 jobs in Connecticut, according to state officials.

 

Senate Bill 1

Expands the existing Small Business Express Program to an estimated 3,600 additional state businesses. Under current law, a business qualifies for Express loans and grants if it employs 50 or fewer people; Senate Bill 1 raises that employee ceiling to 100 employees.

Establish the Unemployed Armed Forces Member STEP-UP (Subsidized Training and Employment Program) with grants to subsidize a businesses’ cost of hiring unemployed veterans during their first 180 days (about six months) on the job. The bill authorizes $10 million in bonds for the program, with $5 million available upon passage and the balance available in Fiscal Year 2014.

Creates the “Connecticut Made” and “Connecticut Treasures” programs to promote products made in Connecticut and promote the state’s cultural, educational and historic attractions. Part of the bill provides for the design planning, and implementation of a multiyear, state-wide marketing and advertising plan that includes television and radio advertisements showcasing Connecticut-made products and the advantages they offer.

Seek to relocate overseas jobs to Connecticut by allowing the state Department of Economic and Community Development to give a preference under the “First Five Plus” program to companies that will relocate jobs from overseas to Connecticut; assistance includes loans, tax incentives and other forms of economic development that create jobs and invest capital within a certain timeframe.

According to the State Labor Department, Connecticut’s private sector has now recovered 46,600, or 42.3%, of the private jobs lost in the recessionary downturn which officially lasted from March 2008 to February 2010.

Over the past year, the largest private-sector job gains have been in the education, health services, transportation, public utilities, and professional and business service sectors. The largest number of job cuts has been in the government sector, which lost 4,800 jobs in the past year.

 

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Program to Match Veterans with Jobs


HARTFORD — There’s a new program to match war veterans with jobs.

So said Congressman John B. Larson, who will join CT Department of Labor Commissioner Glen Marshall, Elliot Ginsberg of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), Commissioner Linda Schwartz of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs and Congressman Larson’s First Congressional District Veterans Advisory Board in announcing the Connecticut Veterans Job Match.

The announcement will be on Friday , 10 a.m. at  Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The announcement will take place at Rentschler Field at 10:00 a.m. – 30 minutes before the kickoff of the Heroes for Hire Job Fair.

Officials said the new program looks to build on the success of the recently-launched Connecticut Manufacturing Job Match Initiative to focus on helping veterans find work in manufacturing and trade industries.

The Manufacturing Job Match, launched last November, identifies unemployed individuals with experience and interest in manufacturing and looks to match them with local businesses that are looking to hire in the field.

Organizers said the Veterans Job Match, launched to coincide with tomorrow’s Heroes for Hire Job Fair at Rentschler Field, will target unemployed veterans, identify their skills and match them with local businesses who are hiring. Those veterans who may not yet possess the requisite skills needed by local businesses will be connected with further training and education opportunities.

Also joining the group tomorrow morning will be representatives from the United States Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.

 

 

 

 

 

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HBO ‘The Weight of the Nation’ Tour Here


NEW HAVEN — As part of HBO’s The Weight of the Nation documentary series, HBO in collaboration with Whole Kids Foundation and GLOBALTAP has selected Benjamin Jepson Magnet School in New Haven to be a part of its 12-city campaign to implement 100 salad bars and water taps in schools across the country.

The May 1 kick off event will include special guests who will join HBO and partner representatives as they raise awareness for one of our nation’s most pressing health issues – obesity – and celebrate the newest cafeteria additions as a resource to combat the epidemic.  Following a short speaking program to celebrate the new salad bar and water tap station, all will enjoy a healthy lunch.

THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION premieres Monday, May 14 at 8PM ET/PT on HBO.

All films will be made available in English and Spanish, and will also stream free of charge on HBO.com, as well as on multiple platforms by participating television service providers.

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Group Unveils 2012 Miss Puerto Rico Hartford Contest


HARTFORD — Mayor Pedro E. Segarra and organizers of the 2012 Miss Puerto Rico of Hartford Pageant will showcase its contestants on Thursday at a  press conference at the City Hall Atrium on Thursday.

The event, which will be held at 6 p.m., will publicly introduce this year’s pageant contestants and outline  the planning of the highly anticipated 4th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The 18 contestants, who range in age from 7 to 18 years old, come from all across the Greater Hartford area.

They will provide photo opportunities and discuss their reasons for competing.

Yesenia Mojica, 2011 Miss Puerto Rico, Jossieanatte Nieves, 2011 Miss Puerto Rico Preteen, and Xaymara Del Mar, 2011 Little Miss Puerto Rico of Hartford, will also be in attendance.

The pageant’s goal is to educate and inspire contestants to develop confidence and teamwork. Most of all, it aims to give them an appreciation for the richness of their Puerto Rican heritage.

Each contestant is assigned a Puerto Rican town, usually their parents’ or grandparents’ hometown, and is required to learn the history of that community.

Each contestant must then demonstrate and display its uniqueness during the cultural costume portion of the pageant.  Each town has its unique history, which will inspire the historic cultural costume.

The organizers will also produce the 4th Annual Greater Hartford Puerto Rican Day Parade.

For more information, contact Raul Ortiz at  hartfordprp@yahoo.com.

 

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When Did Immigrants Become the Enemy?


New America Media, Andrew Lam

SAN FRANCISCO—Recently, in front a packed crowd at Duke University, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice regretted the failure of passing the comprehensive immigration reform act and the shift in Americans’ attitude toward immigrants.

Accepting and welcoming immigrants “has been at the core of our strength,” she said. “I don’t know when immigrants became the enemy.”

These days it is refreshing, if rare, to hear someone of Rice’s stature to speak on behalf of immigrants. Over the last few years the public discourse has been shrill and, if anything, media coverage seems to stoke anxiety to an unprecedented level.

Instead of a larger narrative on immigration—from culture to economics, from identity to history— what we have now is a public mindset of us versus them, and an overall anti immigrant climate that is both troubling and morally reprehensible.

America’s Difficult Love Story

Yet I often see the story of immigration in America as a kind of difficult love story.

Take the scandal involving Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona. Running for Congress, the sheriff is tough on undocumented immigration–but he had a secret: a love affair with Jose Orozco, an immigrant whose legal status remains in question.

The romance went sour, alas, and the immigrant lover alleged that the sheriff threatened to deport him if he came out with their story. Babeu vehemently denied the deportation threat. Orozco promptly filed a lawsuit.

What struck me most about this story is the contradictory nature of the relationship and how emblematic it is to the larger American narrative. We want and benefit from immigrants’ cheap labor, but we don’t want to acknowledge our relationship with them. We need them; we don’t want to be associated with them.

Meg Whitman, the billionaire who ran for governor in California in 2010, wanted to “hold employers accountable for hiring only documented workers.” But she didn’t include herself.

The year before Whitman’s campaign, she’d fired Nicky Diaz Santillan, who in a spectacular press conference revealed that she was undocumented. She had been taking care of the Whitman’s household for nearly a decade.

When Santillan reportedly asked Whitman for help finding an immigration attorney after she was fired, Whitman allegedly told her, “You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

In the war on terrorism, the immigrant is often the scapegoat. He becomes a kind of insurance policy against the effects of recession. By blaming him, the pressure valve is regulated in time of crisis. The master narrative regarding immigration seems to require those it vilifies to obey the rule of silence. Their tongues are often kept in check through the threat of imprisonment and deportation.

God forbid if they become articulate, organize, participate in union politics and demand better wages and fair treatment. God forbid if they hold a press conference or get together to make an updated movie version of The Help.

Immigrants: Canaries in the Coal Mine

Yet, in the context of a free and open society, the immigrant is often the canary in the coalmine. The horror stories from detention centers are just too many:

*Pregnant women shackled to a hospital bed while giving birth;*Inmates shackled and paraded in pink underwear on the streets of Arizona, a scene reminiscent of Abu Ghraib;*Rape incidents uninvestigated;

*Healthcare dangerously lacking in immigrant detention facilities where the suicide levels are alarming;

*Deportees forced to take psychotropic drugs so they act docile in their long journey back to their countries of origin.

Human-rights abuse by law enforcement in America’s Southwest is so notorious that organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are ringing alarm bells for the lack of accountability. This terrible treatment reflects a legal system that’s gone so badly wrong that America’s very humanity is now put in question.

“You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

Perhaps we don’t want to know about the tragedy and psychological and economic impact on tens of thousands of American-born children whose parents have been taken away by the authorities. But it is a fact that we are in the process of creating a whole generation of Americans who are becoming permanent outsiders, a vast second class of citizens.

When a society hides behind the apparatus of draconian policies, allowing the authorities almost unchecked power to detain and deport, the only logical outcome is injustice and cruelty.

Missing Voices

Missing from the national conversation are voices like that of the former secretary of state’s, of pro-immigration reformers and civil rights leaders, who can speak on behalf of those who have no voice. Where are the leaders who can speak to the idea that it is not alien to American interests, but very much in our socioeconomic interest–not to mention our spiritual health–to integrate immigrants, that our nation functions best when we welcome newcomers and help them participate fully in our society?

What’s missing is compassion.

If I am sympathetic to the plight of immigrants of all kinds, I have good reason: I was once a Vietnamese refugee. Like millions who left Vietnam, my family and I fled that country illegally, without passports. We entered another country without visas. That I am a writer and journalist today is due to the American generosity, my Americanization story is a love story, a success story.

But that generosity has all but faded. The United States is no doubt at a very important crossroads. In one direction is a country ruled by distrust, xenophobia and continual exploitation—with its need to strengthen law enforcement. That choice offers us a society willing to look away while an entire population lives in fear, in a de facto police state. It’s a country in which the immigrant becomes indeed the enemy.

In the other direction is a global society defined by openness and with the understanding that we as a nation have always depended and thrived on the energy, ideas and contributions of immigrants. It’s a promised land that can only be envisioned by the newcomer to our shore, who still dreams the dream. For even if we don’t know it yet, we all desperately need to be reborn through his eyes.

Andrew Lam is an editor of New America Media and the author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres and Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese DiasporaHis book of short stories, Birds of Paradise, is due out in 2013.

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SAMA Receives 150K Tech Grant for Training


HARTFORD — Connecticut’s Spanish American Merchants Association has received a $150,000 grant over three years from First Niagara to help support its Empresario Computer Training Program to low and moderate income businesses and start-up enterprises at SAMA’s offices in Hartford, New Haven, and Willimantic.

The training program includes classes on several Microsoft software programs and the Quickbooks accounting software program.

 

“Many small business owners lack the training necessary to incorporate technology into their day-to-day business operations,” SAMA Board of Directors President Angel Sierra said. “First Niagara’s support for our Empresario Computer Training Program will allow us to provide our members with intensive training and technical assistance, so that they can start a new business, or continue to grow their existing business.”

 

The Empresario Computer Training Program was established in 1999 and is one component of the Empresario Development Center which focuses on providing small business owners, their family members and employees, as well as entrepreneurs and start-ups, with education in management, financial literacy, human resources, technology, health and safety.

Each computer training session lasts ten weeks and allows a maximum enrollment of 20 students, with students receiving approximately 30 total hours of training upon graduation. The Empresario Computer Training Program is offered twice a year in each of SAMA’s offices.

For more information on SAMA and the Empresario Computer Training Program, please visit www.samact.org.

 

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Martin Luther King, III To Meet with Malloy on Voting Rights


HARTFORD —  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Congressman John Larson on Monday will host a news conference with Martin Luther King, III in support of legislation preserving voting rights and expanding access to voter registration.

The Voting Rights Act of  1965 was the federal government response to states disfranchisement of voters to years leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. The act also bars the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on the literacy tests.

The act also enforces the 15th Amendment.

In other news,  Malloy will also speak at the Connecticut Immigrant and Refugee Coalition’s annual Connecticut Immigrant Day event, honoring local and statewide immigrants who have contributed to their community and/or profession and he will then meet with  Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and a group of Hartford parents for a roundtable discussion on his proposals to improve the state’s public school system and close the achievement gap.

 

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CT Delegation Pushes Back on NCAA Sanctions


HARTFORD — Six members of Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation last week called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to review and modify a new rule regarding the Academic Progress Rate of its  student basket ball players.

In a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert, delegation members called on the NCAA to review and modify new APR rules by removing the retroactive application of sanctions, which, they said “currently have unfair and negative ramifications for academic institutions and their students.”

“The uncompromised commitment to the academic success of student-athletes remains the paramount responsibility for any academic institution engaged in intercollegiate athletics,” the letter states. “With this obligation in mind, we support necessary and reasonable measures that condition participation in intercollegiate post-season events on a requisite level of academic progress or achievement by student-athletes. However, and no less critical, the process for developing, adopting and implementing regulatory type measures that will be applicable to all academic institutions must be grounded in fundamental fairness.”

The letter comes after the NAACP applauded the new rule that monitors academic progress of basketball players who score high on the basket ball courts but low on academic work. The NAACP and other concerned advocates, including Arne Duncan pushed to  strengthen the academic requirements for eligibility in the March Madness basketball tournament.

The alarm came when  disparities in the graduation rates between white and black players. Last year, the gap in graduation rates between white and black men’s players rose to 32 percent, ringing alarm bells for those with a concern for racial equity, according to a report on the Huffington Post.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear President Emmert:

 

We write to express our concern with the implementation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s new structure for the Academic Progress Rate (APR). As currently implemented, we believe this structure will have unfair negative ramifications for our academic institutions and their students.

 

As you are aware, last October the NCAA Board of Directors adopted new standards (four year average of 900 or two year average of 930) that institutions must meet in order to qualify and participate in NCAA post-season championship events. These standards were made effective immediately and were to be applied to student-athlete academic performance that had already occurred.

 

We appreciate and support the NCAA’s pursuit of new standards as a means to improve academic achievement. We are dismayed, however, that the NCAA based eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on data from the already completed academic years of 2009-10 and 2010-11. As a result, Student-athletes and their institutions were given no phase-in period, no opportunity to adjust to the new standards, and no chance to avoid the penalty. We are deeply concerned that with this action the NCAA is ignoring the reality that more current, data are now available to determine an institution’s most current APR for purposes of determining eligibility for the 2013 Tournament. Using the most current, available data would remedy the existing unfairness.

 

While we understand and support the goals of ensuring quality educational opportunities for student-athletes and the need for strong sanctions for failure to meet those goals, we have misgivings about the retroactive implementation of the penalty. In particular, the NCAA appears to have imposed an overly harsh and unfair penalty by imposing APR sanctions retroactively for conduct and circumstances that had already occurred. By including previous years in a rolling four year average, it should have been clear at the time of adopting the new standard that some universities would be unable to avoid the new penalties – even if the university had achieved a stellar score in the most current year. Due to this rule’s retroactive application, student-athletes, who are not in any manner culpable for the APR performance that is the basis of these new penalties, will be punished.

 

The uncompromised commitment to the academic success of student-athletes remains the paramount responsibility for any academic institution engaged in intercollegiate athletics. With this obligation in mind, we support necessary and reasonable measures that condition participation in intercollegiate post-season events on a requisite level of academic progress or achievement by student-athletes. However, and no less critical, the process for developing, adopting and implementing regulatory type measures that will be applicable to all academic institutions must be grounded in fundamental fairness. Only then will the regulatory structure appropriately address the institutional responsibility for academic success without penalizing innocent individual student-athletes.

 

With the enactment of the new APR penalty structure, however, we believe the NCAA has failed to meet this important standard. The NCAA has the means to address this matter at its upcoming meeting of Committee on Academic Progress on April 23. We therefore call on the NCAA to review and modify the APR rule this session to remove its retroactive application. Such an approach would be a sensible and fair way to resolve this matter while ensuring tough standards and penalties to ensure future compliance.

 

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Joseph Lieberman

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Congressman John Larson

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Congressman Joseph D. Courtney

Congressman Chris Murphy

 

 

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