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From Northeastern Connecticut

EASTCONN Magnet Schools Lead Way on Grading for Equity

EASTCONN’s two magnet high schools – Arts at the Capitol Theater (ACT) in Willimantic and Quinebaug Middle College (QMC) in Danielson – have adopted a personalized, competencybased approach to teaching and learning.

In doing so, EASTCONN joined a handful of Connecticut school districts leading the way on grading for equity statewide.

“When you think of Connecticut’s education system, we’ve been recognized as being a high-achieving state, but we’ve also been recognized as having a high achievement gap,” said Sarah Mallory, principal at ACT. “Competency work is designed to get rid of that gap and to equalize the playing field, because all students need to demonstrate their learning to the same set of standards.”

See Reform, page 2

Q&A with Mr. Edward

After an extensive screening process, veteran educator Edward “Ted” Keleher was selected to lead EASTCONN’s Quinebaug Middle College as its new principal. Ted most recently served as a successful and innovative high school principal at Robert E. Fitch High School in Groton. Before

See QMC Principal, page 3
Hartford Turnpike Hampton, CT 06247
“Ted” Keleher, Principal at Quinebaug Middle College
ACT Principal Sarah Mallory (left) with EASTCONN Education Specialists Kristin Stryker and Dr. Evan Krawiec. QMC’s new principal Edward “Ted” Keleher
Fall 2023 Volume 44, Number 1 eastconn.org

Competency-based – also known as mastery-based or proficiency-based – education attempts to shift classrooms from school-centered to student-centered approaches, which more successfully prepare teenagers for the rapidly changing needs of colleges and careers.

How it works: teachers and administrators collaborate to identify essential standards for each class offered to students. Over time, teachers communicate student progress in PowerSchool by adding standards and “tagging” them within each assignment, allowing students and families to monitor progress and to see where they are in terms of meeting each standard.

When they receive their report cards, students and parents see words like “Exemplary,” “Mastery,” “Progressing,” “Beginning” or “Insufficient Evidence,” which are easily converted to grade point averages (GPAs) commonly used by colleges and universities.

Hearing the word “competency,” however, is when people start to get foggy. Simply put, competencies are statements developed from the standards about what students will know and be able to do.

“Right now, if you looked at some of our math courses, for example, there are around 15 standards in there that they’re working towards,” Mallory said. “Competencies combine multiple standards into one statement. It makes it more transferable for students and families to understand versus the long list of 15.”

Thomas R. Guskey, Ph.D., in his book “Developing Standards-Based Report Cards,” reflects on grading practices in education that are rooted in the early 1900s, when percentages and letter-grade scales first came into widespread use in schools. Guskey argues that our practices have not kept pace with what research tells us about effective grading; grades should reflect learning, be consistent between teachers and be rooted in summative assessments.

Dr. Evan Krawiec, Education Specialist at EASTCONN, said

competency-based education is like learning to drive a car.

“The standards themselves are: can you turn the car on and back out of a parking space. Putting it all together, the question becomes: can you drive a car?” Krawiec said. “That would be the competency: you are a competent driver, because you can do all of these different things that the state has deemed required to do it safely and effectively.”

Many elementary report cards are already standards-based, identifying those standards students should be working towards for each grade. As children progress towards middle and high school, districts typically switch to the traditional A-BC-D-F scoring system.

With the more traditional scoring system, however, it’s not always clear why a particular student earned a particular grade.

“We know that a lot of traditional grades have percentages in them: a homework percentage, a test percentage, a participation percentage – whatever else goes into that,” said EASTCONN Education Specialist Kristin Stryker. “In driving a car, it’s kind of like saying: Your braking ability is worth more than your steering ability. A different teacher or a different school might rate that differently, so then you end up with a different grade.”

Last spring, Mallory, Stryker, Krawiec and EASTCONN Director of K-12 Magnet Schools Diane Dugas created “Communicating Student Progress,” a website hosted by EASTCONN that clearly explains grading for equity for incoming parents, students and teachers.

So far, Mallory said, the majority of parent feedback has been positive.

“At our magnet schools, our focus has always been on how to reach each individual student where they are in terms of their interests, why they’re coming to the magnet, and what experiences they’ve had, and the personalization of learning really hits that,” Mallory said. “We’ll continue to provide our own feedback and see where we need to do things better.”

Executive Editor: Dona Prindle, Director of Marketing & Communications, dprindle@eastconn.org

Editor/Writer: Michael Hamad, Communications Specialist, mhamad@eastconn.org

Graphic Designer: Angela Dean, adean@eastconn.org

EASTCONN Administration: Eric Protulis, Executive Director, eprotulis@eastconn.org

EASTCONN, 376 Hartford Turnpike, Hampton, CT 06247, 860-455-0707 • eastconn.org

EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Fall 2023
Competencies combine multiple standards into one statement. It makes it more transferable for students and families to understand.”
– Sarah Mallory, ACT Principal
...Reform from page 1

that, he was a principal at East Windsor High School and an assistant principal at Bristol Eastern High School. Mr. Keleher, who began his educational career as a math teacher, holds a deep passion for the field of STEM, a background that will serve QMC students well.

“[Ted’s] experience in both large and small districts provides him with a breadth of leadership knowledge, experience and connections,” said Diane Dugas, EASTCONN’s Director of K-12 Magnet Schools. “Ted’s desire to lead in a small community where he can get to know each student and their family, work with staff and partnerships to continue to grow opportunities building upon QMC’s strengths will bring great success to QMC.”

When you discuss the QMC experience with prospective students and families, what are some of the things you talk about?

Some high school students are looking for a more unique experience and personalized experience. Number one, QMC offers a really small community. We really get to know our students and work towards their specific personal goals. And number two, QMC gives students the opportunity to take college-level courses in a college setting as they are going through high school. So, if students are looking to get ahead of their studies and start concentrating on what they want to do once they leave high school – and if they want to know their teachers and fellow students on a personal level and know that we’re working towards their specific goals – then QMC might be for them.

What are your thoughts on the innovative grading system at QMC?

I’ve been involved in schools that did more traditional grading. What I’m excited about is not concentrating so much on students getting to a point in their studies at a certain time; it’s students getting to that point in the time that they need. And as long as they get there, that’s what we’re looking for.

How does the pursuit of college credits at QMC differ from other high schools?

If you’re taking four credits a year for junior and senior years, that could be a sizable amount of tuition money saved right

there. This is a great opportunity to get ahead on the cost of college education. Kids might not think about that as much as they’re looking for a smaller environment, so it really depends on what type of student you are for sure.

QMC also has the advantage of being right on a college campus. QVCC is right down the hall. At any high school you can get college credits, but this is really the exception. AP classes are great, but it’s not a college experience. You’re walking down the hall, you’re in a different world. When you walk through those doorways, you’re in a different type of educational environment.

Who do you think is the ideal QMC student?

I always look for curiosity. The high school years are when students are forming who they’re going to be. They’re coming into young adulthood. Curiosity lets them explore a lot of different types of things and figure out what exactly they want to do.

Maybe they want to go into marketing, maybe they want to go into business, or maybe want to go into healthcare. But just being able to try different things and find their interests, that’s a wonderful thing for sure. Our students have the ability to say, “I’ve tried some business stuff, I’m not interested in that. I’d like to move into the health care pathway.” Okay, no problem. The pathway you choose at first never restricts you from exploring different academic areas.

Agency Professional


Members of EASTCONN’s Psychological and Behavioral Consultation Services team (pictured) will present “A Shift to Assent-Based Learning: Our Journey to Doing Better” at the BABAT 44th Annual Conference in Worcester, Mass. on Oct. 11-13, 2023. Presenters include Dr. Jennifer Connolly, Dr.

EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Fall 2023 ...QMC Principal, from page 1
Rose Jaffery, Dr. Taylor Thorne, Dr. Chris Barclay and Kelley Finlan. Education Specialist Evan Krawiec has completed his Doctorate of Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) at Central Connecticut State University. Evan first enrolled in the program in Aug. 2019 and successfully defended his dissertation, “What is an SRO? A Quantitative Study of School Resource Officers in Connecticut Public High Schools,” in Feb. 2023. Dr. Krawiec received his diploma in May 2023.

Need a job next summer? Get started with EASTCONN

Want to learn more about our CT Youth Employment and Training Program? Watch our video interview with site supervisor Dan Lumpkins as he talks about his on-the-job experiences with EASTCONN.

The CT Youth Employment and Training Program is a program of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board and is funded through various federal, state, town and private sources. EASTCONN, in partnership with New London Youth Affairs and Norwich Youth, Family and Recreation Services, conducts this program in Eastern Connecticut.

Bridges Community School Receives Gift From Neighbor

E.A. Patten representatives dropped off wish-list items – from ordinary classroom supplies to household items like vacuums, which are used to help teach life skills – on the morning of Aug. 23, as new and returning teachers prepared for the return of students.

According to plant manager Benny Chowaniec, E.A. Patten Co. was founded during World War II. A private equity firm purchased the company in 2018 and later sold it to Stanley Black & Decker. Roughly one-third of the company’s 110 employees work at the Columbia site, with the majority of its workforce located at its Manchester plant.

Those ubiquitous Amazon Wish Lists for teachers that typically make the social media rounds on toward the end of summer?

Staff at EASTCONN Bridges Community School in Columbia got everything they asked for this year – courtesy of a nextdoor neighbor on Commerce Drive.

E.A. Patten Co., a subsidiary of manufacturing giant Stanley Black & Decker that mainly produces tubing assemblies for airplane hydraulic systems, chooses one recipient a year for its back-to-school donations.

“As teachers embark on a journey that is rewarding and challenging, this shows them that they have support, not just in this building but in the community,” said Bridges principal Erin Crosby. “It’s just so meaningful to have people next door to us who care so much about us and have given us such a thoughtful and kind gesture.”

“There has been a lot of investment in equipment [in Columbia] over the last five years,” Chowaniec said. “We’ve got a great workforce. It’s very family-oriented. We have employees going back close to 40 years… I’m just so proud of my team, and they really rally around things like this.”

What happens every day at Bridges, Chowaniec added, “is very important, and we want to recognize the special students you take care of. It takes a lot of passion and, I’m sure, a lot of energy. We want to recognize you for what you do, because you change lives every day. I hope that when you leave school at the end of the day, you can take that with you.”

Allison Paradis, who started as an instructor at Bridges two years ago and is now a first-year teacher, was grateful to receive backpacks, calendars and other items.

“Being a first-year teacher, any support we get, especially from the community, is just so helpful,” said Paradis. “We’re just so grateful for it, and we’re really excited to be using all this stuff for the school year.”

4. EASTCONN CONNECTIONS Education News From Northeastern Connecticut Fall 2023
Dan Lumpkins (right) with his Plainfield maintenance crew. Pictured (L-R): Mary Blair, Bridges administrative assistant; Bethany Anderson, EASTCONN Interventionist; Erin Crosby, Bridges principal; Benny Chowaniec, E.A. Patten plant manager; Lisa Rinn, E.A. Patten purchasing manager; Angelene Croasdale Rufus, E.A. Patten human resources manager; and Craig Sidat, E.A. Patten mill and lathe foreman.
“We want to recognize you for what you do, because you change lives every day.”
– Benny Chowaniec, plant manager at E.A. Patten in Columbia
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