Systems Change in the Land of Steady Habits

Connecticut is traditionally known as “The Constitution State”, but is also referred to as “The Land of Steady Habits”. You would not guess this based on the work going on at Central Connecticut State University. We spoke to Dr. Joan Nicoll-Senft, Professor and Chair of the Special Education Department at Central Connecticut State University, which is one of the institutions of higher education receiving CEEDAR’s intensive technical assistance. Dr. Nicoll-Senft shared some of the exciting changes going on at her university and how support from the CEEDAR Center has aligned with and amplified these changes.

The School of Education and Professional Studies is in the midst of an unprecedented change – a redesign that will foster cross-departmental partnerships and bring those with content and special education expertise together. In her work with the CEEDAR Center, Dr. Nicoll-Senft is the leader of a collaborative workgroup comprised of members from departments that work with teacher candidates including mathematics, language arts, special education, elementary education, special education and educational leadership. This has provided a needed synergy that aligns with the changes currently going on at the university level.

Central Connecticut State University’s partnership with CEEDAR is helping to support work at the classroom level where the rubber truly meets the road. Dr. Nicoll-Senft highlighted how the use of the Center’s Innovation Configurations, particularly the one focusing on culturally responsive teaching, will help structure teacher education courses to get teacher education candidates into the mindset of “all means all”. Unfortunately, Connecticut continues struggle with achievement gaps and like the rest of the nation, still struggles with significantly improving outcomes for students with disabilities.

Dr. Nicoll-Senft is excited about the goals she has moving forward with the CEEDAR partnership. Modules are being developed which will be infused into teacher education courses to address what learner ready candidates need to know and be able to do. These modules are informed by the current climate of change and will ultimately help raise the bar for students with disabilities and struggling learners. Dr. Nicoll-Senft creatively thought of CEEDAR’s support, training, technical assistance and resources as a “defibrillator” to jumpstart the educational flatline. We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Nicoll-Senft and the exciting changes going on at Central Connecticut State University.


Connecticut is making strides in education reform.