PA 10-111—sSB 438

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION REFORM IN CONNECTICUT

SUMMARY: This act raises school academic standards by, among other things, increasing the minimum credits for high school graduation from 20 to 25, starting with the graduating class of 2018. It requires school districts to offer student support and alternative ways to meet the new requirements, sets minimum standards for online courses, requires districts with dropout rates of 8% or higher to provide online credit recovery courses, and requires high schools to offer advanced placement (AP) courses.

The act takes steps to improve student performance in low-achieving schools and school districts. It:

1. requires school boards with low-achieving schools to create school governance councils made up mostly of students' parents or guardians that are empowered to, among other things, advise the principal on the school budget before it is submitted to the superintendent, interview candidates to fill principal vacancies, and vote to reconstitute low-achieving schools using models included in the act;

2. enhances the State Board of Education's (SBE) authority to replace a local or regional board of education for a district that, after being designated as a low-achieving district, fails for two consecutive years to make adequate progress;

3. permits the school board of a priority school district to convert an existing school or establish a new school as an “innovation school” through agreements with the school's teacher and administrator unions and for the purpose of improving school performance and student achievement;

4. requires school districts to hold two, rather than one, parent-teacher conferences a year; and

5. establishes an achievement gap task force.

The act revamps teacher and school administrator evaluations to require that, starting by July 1, 2013, evaluations be based partly on measures of student academic growth. It requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to expand the public school information system to track and report to school boards data on performance growth by students, teachers, schools, and school districts. It provides incentives for teachers and retired teachers to work in priority districts and allows retired teachers to work longer before their Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) benefits are reduced. It specifies the minimum criteria for SDE to review and approve proposals for school administrator alternate route to certification (ARC) programs and gives the education commissioner additional criteria for waiving the requirement that a school superintendent hold a superintendent certificate issued by the SBE.

The act eliminates certain statutory restrictions on enrollment in high-achieving state charter schools; imposes regulatory restrictions on charter schools' relationships with charter management organizations; requires qualifying charter school teachers to participate in the TRS; and allows charter schools to continue to receive state facility grants, subject to available bond authorizations.

Finally, with certain conditions, the act allows school officials to consider a student's previous disciplinary problems when deciding whether to impose an out-of-school suspension.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2010, except for the teachers' retirement and charter school construction grant provisions, which are effective upon passage.

16-19, 28, & 31 — SECONDARY SCHOOL REFORM

The act increases high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2018 and requires school districts to provide students who are unable to satisfactorily complete the new requirements with support and remedial services that are an alternative to meeting the new requirements. It requires SDE to provide grants, within available appropriations, to school districts to assist with implementing the new standards and support services.

The act requires local boards of education to give a status report on implementing the higher standards to SDE by November 1, 2012, and biennially thereafter, and requires SDE to give a status report to the legislature by February 1, 2013, and biennially thereafter.

It also authorizes SDE to create a board examination series pilot program to allow students in grades 9 through 12 to graduate from high school by passing a series of exams instead of meeting the regular high school graduation requirements.

It permits school boards to award credit toward graduation requirements for the successful completion of online coursework if the board has adopted an online course policy that meets standards the act sets.

High School Credit Requirements and End-of-Year Examinations

Under the act, students must earn more credits and pass five end-of-year examinations to graduate from high school. The act raises, from 20 to 25, the number of credits required to graduate and changes course requirements. The new requirements apply starting with the high school graduating class of 2018.

The old and new minimum high school graduation requirements are shown in Tables 1 and 2 below.

Table 1: Minimum Graduation Requirements through the Class of 2017

Subject Area

Required Credits

English

4

Mathematics

3

Social Studies

3

(including a half credit in civics and American Government)

Science

2

Arts or Vocational Education

1

Physical Education

1

Table 2: Minimum Graduation Requirements Starting with the Class of 2018

Subject Area

Required Credits

Humanities – 9 credits

English

4, including composition

Social Studies

3, including 1 credit in American history and a half credit in civics and American Government

Fine Arts

1

Humanities Elective

1

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – 8 credits

Mathematics

4, including algebra I, geometry, and either algebra II or probability and statistics

Science

3, including 1 in life science, 1 in physical science

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Elective

1

Career and Life Skills – 3. 5 credits

Physical Education

1

Comprehensive health education

0. 5

Career and life skills electives, such as career and technical education, English as a second language, community service, personal finance, public speaking, and nutrition and physical activity

2

Other – 3 credits

World Languages (see below)

2

Senior demonstration project or its SBE-approved equivalent

1

The act specifies that a world language course successfully completed in grade six, seven, or eight or online can count towards the high school graduation requirement. The law already allows world language classes taken through a private nonprofit provider to count toward the graduation requirements. The act requires these classes to be completed successfully, but does not define “successful.

The act requires students, starting with the class of 2018, to pass end-of-year examinations for the following courses in order to graduate: (1) algebra I, (2) geometry, (3) biology, (4) American history, and (5) 10th grade English. It requires SDE, by July 1, 2012, to begin developing or approving the end-of-year exams. The exams must be developed or approved by July 1, 2014.

Student Support Services and Alternative Means of Completing Graduation Requirements

Beginning with 7th graders in the 2012-13 school year (the graduating class of 2018), local boards must provide adequate support and remedial services for students. For those unable to successfully complete any of the required courses or exams, the services must provide an alternate way for a student to meet the requirements.

The support and remedial services must at least include allowing students to:

1. retake courses in summer school or through an online course;

2. enroll in a class offered at a community college, state college, or university accredited regionally or by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) (a three-credit semester course at these institutions equals one-half credit for purposes of meeting graduation requirements);

3. take an alternate form of the examination if they received a failing score, as determined by the education commissioner, on an end-of-the-school-year examination; and

4. demonstrate competency on any of the five core courses through success on an alternate assessment if their individualized education plans state that they are eligible to use an alternate assessment.

For the school year starting July 1, 2012 and each following year, the act also requires local boards to collect information for each public school student, starting in 6th grade, that includes the student's career and academic choices in grades 6 through 12, inclusive.

Board Examination Pilot for Graduation

The act permits SDE to establish a board examination series pilot program that allows boards of education to permit students in grades 9 through 12 to graduate from high school by passing a series of examinations instead of meeting the regular high school graduation requirements.

The SBE must issue a board examination certificate to any student who has successfully completed the pilot program. The examination certificate will be considered the same as a high school diploma for purposes of student eligibility for enrollment at a public higher education institution in Connecticut.

For the school year starting July 1, 2011, and each following year, a local or regional board of education must permit a student to graduate from high school upon the successful completion of the pilot program created in the act in lieu of the regular credit and examination requirements under the law or this act.

Online Course Credit and Policy

The act allows local boards to award credit toward graduation for the successful completion of online coursework if the board has adopted an online course policy that meets the standards set in the act. The policy must, at a minimum, ensure the:

1. workload required by the online course is equivalent to that of a similar course taught in a traditional classroom setting;

2. content is rigorous and aligned with SBE-approved curriculum guidelines where appropriate;

3. course engages students and has interactive components, such as required interactions between students and teachers, participation in online demonstrations, discussion boards, or virtual labs;

4. online coursework program is planned, ongoing, and systematic; and

5. courses are (a) taught by teachers certified by any state who have received training on teaching in an online environment or (b) offered by higher education institutions that are regionally or DHE-accredited.

Online Credit Recovery Program

The act requires a board of education for a school district with a dropout rate of 8% or greater in the previous school year, to establish an online credit recovery program for students identified as being in danger of failing to graduate. These students, once identified by certified personnel, must be allowed to complete online, district-approved coursework toward meeting high school graduation requirements. Each school in the district must designate, from among existing staff, an online learning coordinator to administer and coordinate the online credit recovery program.

Grants to School Districts and Status Reports on the New Requirements

Under the act, SDE must provide grants, within available appropriations, for FY 13 to FY 18, inclusive, to school districts specifically to assist with implementing the new standards and student support services the act requires.

Each local board seeking SDE grant assistance must give the department, by November 1, 2012, and biennially thereafter, (1) a status report on implementing the higher standards and support services and (2) an explanation of why funds are necessary for the next biennium to implement the new standards and services.

The act requires SDE to report biennially to the Education Committee, starting by February 1, 2013, on how school boards are implementing the new standards and support services. The report must include (1) an explanation of available state and federal funds, (2) recommendations on the need for additional state funds for local districts, and (3) recommendations for any statutory changes that would help school boards implement the new standards and related support services.

Advanced Placement Courses

Starting July 1, 2011, the act requires local and regional boards of education to provide high school level courses for which an advanced placement (AP) examination is available through the College Board. It also requires the SBE to develop guidelines to help school districts train teachers to teach AP courses to a diverse student body.

6-7, 21-27, & 29-30 — LOW-ACHIEVING SCHOOLS AND PARENT INVOLVEMENT

School Governance Councils

The act requires, starting July 1, 2010, any board of education that has a low-achieving school as defined in state law (see BACKGROUND) because the school did not make adequate yearly progress in mathematics and reading at the whole school level to establish a school governance council for the school. If the failure to make adequate yearly progress in mathematics and reading at the whole school level was before July 1, 2010 and the school is among the lowest 5% of Connecticut schools based on achievement, the council must be established by January 15, 2011. If the school is not among the lowest 5% of Connecticut schools based on achievement, the council must be established by November 1, 2011.

The act authorizes a school board to establish a council for a school identified as in need of improvement. (Low-achieving schools are a subset of the in-need-of-improvement group. ) It states that a council is considered a component of parental involvement for purposes of federal funding under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

Membership, Voting Rights, and Terms. The school governance councils consist of 14 voting members plus nonvoting members (see Table 3 below).

Table 3: Governance Council Membership and Selection Process

Member

Number

Selection/Election Process

Parents or guardians of students at the school

7

Elected by the parents or guardians of students attending the school, with each household with a student attending the school having one vote

Community leaders within the school district

2

Elected by the governance council's parent or guardian and teacher members

Teachers at the school

5

Elected by the teachers of the school

School principal or designee (nonvoting)

1

Principal may name a designee

Student members, high school councils only (nonvoting)

2

Elected by the school's student body

Voting members have two-year terms, and no member can serve more than two terms on a council. Nonvoting student members serve up to two one-year terms.

Council Responsibilities. School governance councils are responsible for:

1. analyzing school achievement data and school needs as they relate to the school's improvement plan prepared according to the act;

2. reviewing the fiscal objectives of the school's draft budget and advising the principal before the budget is submitted to the superintendent;

3. participating in the hiring of the school principal or other administrators by conducting candidate interviews and reporting on them to the superintendent and the local and regional board of education;

4. assisting the principal in making programmatic and operational changes to improve the school's achievement, including program changes, adjusting school hours and days of operation, and enrollment goals;

5. working with school administrators in developing and approving a school compact for parents, legal guardians, and students that outlines the criteria and responsibilities for enrollment and school membership consistent with the school's goals and academic focus and the ways that parents and school personnel can build a partnership to improve student learning;

6. developing and approving a written school parent involvement policy that outlines the role of parents and guardians;

7. using records relating to information about parents and guardians maintained by the local or regional board of education for the sole purpose of council election; and

8. determining whether to reorganize the school in accordance with the act.

Reconstituting Schools. A governance council can vote to reconstitute a school under the act's provisions during the third year after the council is established. A council may not vote to reconstitute if (1) the school was already reconstituted as a result of receiving federal education grants that were contingent on reconstitution ( 10003g) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 20 U. S. C. 6301 et seq. ) or (2) a reconstitution was initiated by another source.

A vote to reconstitute must recommend one of the following models for reconstitution:

1. turnaround;

2. restart;

3. transformation;

4. CommPACT school, pursuant to Connecticut statute (see BACKGROUND for details of models 1-4);

5. an innovation school, (see below); and

6. any other model developed later under NCLB.

No later than 10 days after the council informs the local or regional board of education of its vote to reorganize, the board must hold a public hearing to discuss the vote. At the board's next regularly scheduled meeting or 10 days after the public hearing, whichever is later, it must vote on whether to (1) accept the model recommended by the council, (2) select an alternative model described in the act, or (3) maintain the existing school status. If the board selects an alternative model, it must meet with the council within 10 days of its vote to discuss which alternative to adopt.

If the board and council cannot agree, the education commissioner must decide, no later than 45 days after the last meeting between the board and the council, which of the alternatives to implement. If the board votes to maintain the existing school status, no later than 45 days after the vote the commissioner must decide whether to implement the council's recommended model or maintain the existing school status.

Reorganization Implementation. If the final decision is adoption of a model, the board must implement the model during the subsequent school year in conformance with (1) state law and applicable regulations, (2) federal regulations and guidelines for school restructuring under NCLB, or (3) any other applicable federal laws or regulations.

Additional Powers of a Governance Council. In addition to its responsibilities, the act authorizes a council:

1. in those schools that require an improvement plan, to review the annual draft report detailing the goals in the state accountability plan prepared under existing law for low-achieving schools and advise the principal before the report is submitted to the superintendent of schools;

2. in those schools where an improvement plan becomes required under state accountability law for low-achieving schools, to assist the principal in developing the plan before it is submitted to the superintendent of schools;

3. to work with the principal to develop, conduct, and report the results of an annual survey of parents, guardians, and teachers on issues related to the school climate and conditions; and

4. to advise the principal on any other major policy matters affecting the school, except matters relating to collective bargaining agreements between the teachers and the board of education.

The act requires boards of education to provide appropriate training and instruction to governance council members to help them carry out their duties.

Annual Statewide Limits on Reconstitutions. The SBE cannot allow more than 25 schools per school year to be reconstituted under the act's provisions. The SBE must notify school districts and governance councils when this limit is reached. A reconstitution counts toward this limit when the school board notifies the SBE of its final decision to do so.

Evaluating School Governance Councils. The education commissioner must evaluate those councils that are established on or before January 15, 2011 based on the act's criteria for monitoring reconstituted schools (see below) and report to the Education Committee on the evaluation by October 1, 2014. The report must include recommendations on whether to continue to allow school governance councils to recommend reconstitution.

Innovation Schools

The act permits a board of education for a priority school district to convert an existing school or establish a new school as an “innovation school” through agreements with the teacher and administrator unions for the purpose of improving school performance and student achievement.

Innovation Plans. An “innovation school” operates under an innovation plan that articulates areas of autonomy and flexibility in curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, school district policies and procedures, professional development, and staffing policies and procedures, including waivers from or modifications to union contracts. Changes to union contracts must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the bargaining unit's members employed or to be employed at the school. The innovation plan must include measurable goals regarding school performance and student success.

The act requires these schools to operate under an innovation plan developed by either the faculty and district leadership or an external partner as determined by the local or regional board of education. Either group selected, faculty and district leadership or external partner, must develop the plan through an innovation plan committee, which the act outlines (see below).

Under the act, when faculty and district leadership are responsible for developing the innovation plan, school administrators are responsible for meeting the plan's terms. Likewise, when an external partner, such as a public or private college or university, is responsible for developing the plan, the external partner is responsible for meeting the plan's terms. The act does not define the ongoing involvement of the external partner.

External Partners Defined. An external partner may be (1) a public or private college or university; (2) a nonprofit charter school operator; (3) an educational collaborative; or (4) a consortium authorized by the education commissioner that can include public or private colleges or universities, parents, teachers or administrator unions, or superintendents' organizations.

Plan Committee. The innovation plan committee must include between nine and 11 members. Under either the faculty and district leadership option or the external partner option, a committee must include the following members, selected by the local or regional board of education:

1. the district superintendent, or his or her designee;

2. a local or regional board of education member, or his or her designee;

3. two parents who have one or more children enrolled in the school, or in the case of a new school, from the district; and

4. the principal of the school, or in the case of a new school where the principal has not yet been hired, a principal from the school district where the new school is located.

The committee must also include two certified teachers at the school, appointed by the teachers' union, or in the case of a new school where no teachers have yet been hired, two teachers appointed by the teachers' union of that district.

In the case of a plan being developed by the faculty and district leadership, the committee may not have more than four additional members who the board deems appropriate. In the case of a plan being developed by an external partner, the committee must have two representatives of the external partner, selected by the board of education, and up to two additional members who the board of education deems appropriate.

A majority vote of the committee is required to approve the innovation plan.

Plan Elements. The innovation plan must include a:

1. curriculum plan including a detailed description of the curriculum and related programs and how the curriculum is expected to improve school performance and student achievement;

2. budget plan including a detailed description of how the school will use funds differently than other district public schools to support school performance and student achievement;

3. school schedule plan including a detailed description of the ways the program or calendar of the proposed school will be enhanced or expanded;

4. staffing plan that includes any proposed waivers or modifications of union agreements, subject to existing collective bargaining law and the act's provision requiring a two-third affirmative vote to modify agreements;

5. policies and procedures plan including a detailed description of the unique operational policies and procedures to be used and how the procedures will support school performance and student achievement; and

6. professional development plan including a detailed description of how the school may provide professional development to its administrators, teachers, and other staff.

In order for the school superintendent to assess the innovation school across multiple measures of school performance and student success (see below), the plan must include measurable annual goals related to:

1. student attendance;

2. student safety and discipline;

3. student promotion and graduation and dropout rates;

4. student performance on statewide mastery examinations;

5. progress in academic underperformance areas;

6. progress among student subgroups, including low-income, limited English-proficient, and special education students; and

7. progress in reducing achievement gaps among different groups of students.

Union and Employee Agreement. The act provides that it does not alter union agreements with administrators, teachers, and staff. Union agreements are considered in operation at an innovation school unless provisions are waived or modified in the innovation plan and agreed to by a two-thirds vote of the members of the bargaining unit employed or to be employed at the school.

School Evaluation and Superintendent Intervention. The superintendent must annually evaluate innovation schools in his or her district and submit the evaluation to the board of education and the education commissioner. The evaluation determines whether the school has met the annual goals outlined in the innovation plan and assesses the plan's implementation. The superintendent can amend or suspend one or more components of the plan after one year, if he or she determines that changes in the school district, after the plan was established, need to be addressed by changing one or more components.

If the superintendent determines that the school has substantially failed to meet the goals, the local or regional school board may (1) amend or suspend one or more components of the plan or (2) terminate the school's authorization. The act prohibits a board of education from amending or suspending one or more components before the end of the second full year of the school's operation and prohibits plan termination before completion of the third full year of operation.

An amendment to, or suspension of, any component of the innovation plan that changes the union contract for any teacher at the school must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the teachers union before it can be implemented.

Students at Converted Innovation Schools. The act requires boards of education to allow a student enrolled in a school when it is established as an innovation school to remain at the school if the student and his or her parents so choose.

Schools Identified for Reconstitution

By law, the education commissioner must identify low-achieving schools for reconstitution. The act adds innovation schools to the specific reconstitution models the commissioner may choose for such schools. The law already allows the commissioner to choose among any of the following reconstitution options: (1) transformation to a state or local charter school, COMMPact school, or school based on other improvement models or (2) management by an entity other than the board of education for the school district where the school is located. As under prior law, the act allows the commissioner to phase in a school's reconstitution to an innovation school.

The act requires that, if the commissioner's required reconstitution affects working conditions, it be carried out in accordance with the Teacher Negotiation Act. This requirement already applies to several of the commissioner's other powers over schools and districts identified as low-achieving, namely:

1. providing incentives to attract highly qualified teachers and principals;

2. directing teacher and principal transfers and assignments;

3. requiring additional training for parents and guardians of children attending the school and for the teachers, principals, and central office administrators a district hires;

4. directing the establishment of learning academies within schools that require teacher groups to continuously monitor student performance; and

5. implementing a plan developed by the district's board of education to address deficits in achievement and the learning environment recommended in an instructional audit.

State Reconstitution of Local or Regional Board of Education

The act enhances the SBE's authority to replace the board of education for a local or regional school district that, after being designated as a low-achieving district, fails for two consecutive years to make adequate progress toward meeting the requirements of the state accountability law and NCLB. It establishes conditions for the SBE and the commissioner to exercise this authority. By law, the SBE, after consulting with the governor and the district's chief elected official, can also ask the General Assembly to enact legislation allowing it to shift control of a low-achieving district to the SBE or another authorized entity.

The act overrides state statutes, special acts, and local charters and ordinances to allow the SBE, subject to certain conditions, to authorize the education commissioner to terminate the existing local or regional board of education for a low-achieving school district and appoint new members. It also requires that, before any reconstitution, the SBE have mandated that the existing board members undergo training to improve their operational efficiency and effectiveness as leaders of their district's improvement plans.

Under the act, the SBE may implement the reconstituted board for no more than five years. Once the SBE gives the commissioner the authority, the commissioner must terminate the district's existing board and appoint new members for three-year terms. The newly appointed board may include members of the terminated board. The act requires SDE to offer training to the new board's members.

The new board must annually report to the commissioner on the district's progress in meeting the SBE's benchmarks for progress and the adequate yearly progress requirements of NCLB. If, after three years, the district does not show adequate improvement, the act authorizes the commissioner to reappoint the board members or appoint new members for two-year terms.

The act makes a conforming change in the statute requiring board of education members to be elected, unless otherwise provided by special act or local charter.

State Monitoring and Reporting

The act requires SDE, within available appropriations, to monitor schools for two years after reconstitution for progress based on:

1. the reconstitution model adopted;

2. the length of school day and year;

3. the number and type of disciplinary incidents;

4. student attendance and dropout rates and the number of truants;

5. average state mastery test scale scores;

6. for high schools, the number and percentage of students completing advance placement courses;

7. teacher attendance rate; and

8. the existence and size of the parent-teacher organizations.

By January 1, 2012, the department must report to the Education Committee on the number of school governance councils established under the act, the number of reconstituted schools, and the reconstitution models adopted. By January 1, 2013, the department must report to the committee on (1) the results of the school monitoring, (2) recommended changes in the available reconstitution models, (3) whether school governance councils should continue to recommend reconstitution, (4) a comparison of the models adopted, and (5) the progress of the schools adopting each model based on the above-listed indicators.

The act requires SDE, within available appropriations, to report to the Education Committee (1) the number of school governance councils that initiate school reconstitutions under the act, (2) a comparison of the councils that have initiated reconstitutions with those that have not, and (3) whether there is increased parental involvement at schools with governance councils.

The act requires the department to start the reporting by July 1, 2011. Because it includes two conflicting reporting schedules, it is unclear whether SDE must submit the report every year or every two years.

Parent Trust Fund Transferred

The act transfers the Parent Trust Fund from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to SDE. It does not change the fund's purpose. The education commissioner must use the fund for programs aimed at improving children's health, safety, and education through parents' community involvement. The programs must (1) train parents in civic leadership skills and (2) support increased, sustained parental engagement in community affairs.

In addition to allowing the fund, as under prior law, to receive private and federal funds, the act also allows it to receive state funds. It transfers the unspent balance of the existing fund under DSS to the fund under SDE. It also eliminates the Parent Trust Fund's explicit authority to receive money through the Children's Trust Fund and makes other conforming changes. (PA 10-2, June Special Session, appropriates $500,000 to SDE for FY 11 for the fund. )

Parent-Teacher Conferences

By law, each local and regional board of education must have written policies to encourage parent-teacher communication. Under the act, starting with the 2010-11 school year, those policies must require school districts to hold two flexible parent-teacher conferences per year.

Achievement Gap Task Force

The act establishes a nine-member task force to study, monitor, and consider effective ways to close the achievement gap between racial and socioeconomic groups in Connecticut. The task force must consider (1) systematic education planning, (2) best practices in public education, (3) teacher professional development, and (4) parental involvement in public education. It must report its findings and recommendations to the Education Committee by January 1, 2011.

The task force consists of the education commissioner or his designee and eight members appointed by legislative leaders as follows: two each by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore and one each by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders. (PA 10-1, June Special Session, adds a 10th member appointed by the governor. ) Appointments must be made by August 1, 2010. Appointees must reflect the state's geographical and cultural diversity and have experience in business, education, and philanthropic organizations. Legislative leaders' appointees may be legislators.

The House speaker and Senate president pro tempore select the task force chairpersons, who must schedule the first meeting by September 1, 2010. The task force is staffed by the Education Committee's administrative staff. It terminates when it submits its report or on January 1, 2011, whichever is later.

3 — EXPANDED PUBLIC SCHOOL INFORMATION SYSTEM

State law already requires SDE to develop and implement a public school information system under which the department assigns a unique identifier to each student to allow for tracking individual student performance on statewide mastery tests. By July 1, 2013, the act requires SDE to expand the system to:

1. track and report to local and regional school boards, data on performance growth by students, teachers, schools, and school districts;

2. collect available data on enrollment in, and graduation from, higher education institutions, for students who have a unique student identifier in the system; and

3. develop a way to access and share data with the data systems of Connecticut public higher education institutions.

Student, Teacher, School, and District Data

Local districts must use the data on students, teachers, schools, and districts to evaluate students' and teachers' educational performance growth. The act requires information in the system to be collected or calculated from information received from boards of education and other relevant sources and requires school districts to report the information.

Student Data. In addition to mastery test performance, the data relating to students must include the (1) primary language spoken in the student's home; (2) student transcripts; (3) student attendance and mobility; and (4) for each student enrolling in public school at the kindergarten level, reliable, valid assessments of his or her readiness for kindergarten.

Teacher Data. The system's teacher data must include:

1. credentials, such as master's degrees, teacher preparation programs completed, and certification levels and endorsements;

2. assessments, such as whether a teacher is considered highly qualified under NCLB or meets any other designations established by federal law or regulations to measure the equitable distribution of instructional staff;

3. the presence of substitute teachers and a teacher's aide;

4. the absenteeism rate in the teacher's classroom; and

5. class size.

Under the act, a “teacher” is any certified professional below the rank of superintendent employed by a board of education for at least 90 days in a position requiring an SBE certificate. A “teacher preparation program” is one provided by a higher education institution or other SDE-approved program, including an alternative route to certification (ARC) program, that is designed to prepare people for professional educator certification.

The act requires SDE to assign each teacher a unique identifier before collecting the data.

School and School District Data. The school and school district data must include:

1. school population;

2. annual graduation rates;

3. annual teacher retention rates;

4. school disciplinary records, such as data on suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions;

5. the percentage of students whose primary language is not English;

6. the number and professional credentials of support personnel; and

7. information on instructional technology, such as computer access.

Education Commissioner's Annual Report

The education commissioner must report annually to the Education Committee, starting July 1, 2011 and continuing until July 1, 2013, on SDE's progress in expanding the data system, including the data elements in the system at the time of each report and those that will be added by July 1, 2013.

1, 2, 4, 5, 8, & 9 — TEACHERS, RETIRED TEACHERS, AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

Teacher Evaluation Requirements

By law, a school superintendent must continuously evaluate his or her school district's professional employees below the rank of superintendent or cause them to be evaluated. Evaluations must at least address a teacher's strengths, areas needing improvement, and improvement strategies. The act adds a requirement that evaluations also address the academic growth of the teacher's students.

SBE Model Teacher Evaluation Program Guidelines

The act requires the SBE, by July 1, 2013 and in consultation with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (see below), to develop model teacher evaluation program guidelines that give guidance on using multiple indicators of student academic growth in evaluations. The guidelines must include:

1. ways to measure student academic growth;

2. consideration of “control” factors tracked by the expanded public school data system that could influence teacher performance, such as student characteristics, attendance, and mobility; and

3. minimum requirements for evaluation instruments and procedures.

Evaluation Programs Developed by Local and Regional School Boards

By law, school boards must implement evaluation programs that are consistent with SBE guidelines and with any other guidelines established by mutual agreement between a local or regional board of education and the appropriate teachers union. Boards must develop the evaluation programs with the advice and assistance of collective bargaining representatives of the teachers and school administrators. This act also requires the local evaluation programs to be consistent with its new guidelines.

Performance Evaluation Advisory Council

The act creates a Performance Evaluation Advisory Council within SDE to help the SBE develop and implement the model teacher evaluation program and the supporting data system. The council must meet at least quarterly.

The council members are:

1. the education and higher education commissioners, or their designees;

2. one representative each from the following organizations chosen by the organization: (a) the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, (b) the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, (c) the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, (d) the Connecticut Education Association, and (e) the American Federation of Teachers- Connecticut; and

3. an unspecified number of appropriate people selected by the education commissioner, who must include teachers and experts in performance evaluation processes and procedures.

Alternate Route to Certification (ARC) Program for School Administrators

Entities Eligible to Offer Administrator ARC Programs. The act requires SDE to review and approve proposals for school administrator ARC programs according to criteria the act specifies and any other criteria the department requires. It appears to override another law, which requires the Department of Higher Education (DHE), in consultation with SDE, to develop an ARC program for school administrators and superintendents that includes mentored apprenticeships and criteria for program admission (CGS 10-155d (c)).

To be approved under the act, administrators' ARC programs must be provided by:

1. public or private higher education institutions;

2. local and regional boards of education;

3. regional educational service centers; or

4. SBE-approved private, nonprofit teacher or administrator training organizations.

Admission Criteria. The act establishes minimum admission criteria for administrator ARC programs by requiring SDE to approve only programs that require applicants to have at least:

1. a bachelor's degree from an institution accredited regionally or by the higher education Board of Governors;

2. 40 months of teaching experience in Connecticut or another state, at least 10 of which must be in a public school position requiring certification; and

3. the recommendation of their immediate supervisor or district administrator, based on performance.

One-Year Residency or Other Experience. Under the act, an SDE-approved program must require a participant to complete a one-year residency in a full-time, 10-month, local or regional school board position requiring an intermediate administrator or supervisor endorsement. During the residency, the participant must be under the supervision of a certified administrator and a supervisor from an institution or organization offering the ARC program. The one-year residency requirement does not apply to anyone who has 10 school months of experience as an administrator in a public or private school in another state approved by that state's appropriate SBE.

Qualifications for Initial Administrator Certificate. The act requires SBE to issue an initial certificate with an administration and supervision endorsement, good for three years, to a successful graduate of an administrators' ARC program who passes, or meets the requirements for an exemption from or a waiver of, Connecticut's educator testing requirements.

Starting July 1, 2010, SBE must issue an initial certificate to a qualifying administrator ARC program graduate even if the applicant does not meet a statutory requirement that all applicants for initial and provisional educator certificates complete a minimum 36-hour course in understanding the growth and development of exceptional children, including handicapped and gifted and talented children and children who may require special education.

Master's Degree Requirement. The act requires anyone who receives an initial administrator certificate after completing an administrator ARC program to obtain a master's degree within five years of receiving the initial certificate. It thus exempts ARC program graduates from SDE regulations requiring a master's degree, plus 18 hours of additional graduate credit among other qualifications, in order to receive an initial certificate in intermediate administration and supervision (Conn. Agency Regs. 10-145d-574).

Under the act, an administrator ARC program graduate who fails to obtain a master's degree in the required time is ineligible for a professional-level administrator certificate.

Superintendent Certification Waiver

The act gives the education commissioner additional authority to waive the requirement that a school superintendent hold a superintendent certificate issued by the SBE, if a waiver is requested by the superintendent's employing board of education.

By law, the commissioner may already waive certification for a person the commissioner considers exceptionally qualified to be a school superintendent based on specified criteria. The act bars the commissioner from issuing such a waiver except at the request of an employing board of education.

In addition, the act allows the commissioner to waive certification at the employing board's request for a person who has at least three years of successful experience in a public school in another state in the 10 years prior to the waiver application date. The experience must be as a certified administrator with a superintendent certificate issued by another state.

Reemployment of Retired Teachers

The act expands opportunities for a school district to reemploy retired teachers who are collecting pensions from the TRS.

Under prior law, a retired teacher could return to work for a school district without any reduction in his or her TRS pension benefits if he or she (1) received a salary of no more than 45% of the maximum for the assigned position and (2) worked for less than a school year. This act eliminates the second of these conditions, allowing a retired teacher to work for any amount of time at 45% of the maximum pay for the assigned position. It eliminates a requirement that a school district notify the Teachers' Retirement Board (TRB) of such a retiree's employment twice a year, on January 31 and June 30. Instead, it requires the school district and the retired teacher to notify TRB when the person is hired and, as under prior law, at the end of each assignment.

Under prior law, if a retired teacher taught in a subject shortage area, he or she could be reemployed by a school district or a higher education constituent unit at full salary and with no reduction in TRS benefits for up to one full school year, with a possible extension to a second year. The act extends this full-salary option to retired teachers who are reemployed (1) to teach any subject in a priority school district or (2) by the SBE in a subject shortage area.

As under prior law, TRB must approve the extension after receiving a written application from the local school board or constituent unit that (1) certifies that no qualified candidates are available for the position and (2) indicates the type and expected duration of the retired teacher's assignment and the anticipated rehire date. Such a retired teacher and his or her employer must notify TRB at the beginning and end of the assignment.

Tenure in Priority School Districts

The act allows any certified teacher or administrator who (1) is employed by a local or regional board of education in a priority school district and (2) previously had tenure with another board of education in this or another state to attain tenure after 10 months of employment in the priority school district rather than the previously required 20 months. The 20-month service requirement continues to apply to such teachers employed in nonpriority districts.

Teacher Professional Development, Technical Assistance, and Evaluation

The act expands the entities eligible for state funding to provide professional development services, technical assistance, and evaluation activities to local and regional boards of education, state charter schools, vocational-technical schools, school readiness providers, and other educational entities, as the education commissioner determines. Under prior law, only regional educational service centers could receive funding to provide these services. The act also allows funding to go to other state education organizations, such as those representing school superintendents, boards of education, and elementary and secondary schools.

11-15 — CHARTER SCHOOLS

State Board of Education Authority to Issue Charters

By law, the SBE must review and approve applications for state and local charter schools before the schools may begin operating. The act eliminates a requirement that, when the SBE issues charters for state and local charter schools, it do so only within available appropriations. It does not change the charter school funding mechanisms or the state per-student grant.

Charter School Enrollment Limits

The act eliminates enrollment caps on high-achieving state charter schools. By law, enrollment in a state charter school is restricted to either (1) 250 or, in the case of a K-8 school, 300 students or (2) 25% of the enrollment of the school district where the charter school is located, whichever is less. Under prior law, if a school applied and demonstrated a record of achievement, the SBE could waive these overall limits, but the school's enrollment was still limited to no more than 85 students per grade. This act (1) eliminates the 85-student-per-grade limit and (2) requires, rather than allows, the SBE to waive the overall enrollment limits for high-achieving charter schools that apply for such waivers.

Charter School Facility Grants

The act makes the charter school facility grant program permanent. Under prior law, it was available only for FY 08 and FY 09. Grants remain subject to available bond authorizations.

The facility grants help charter schools:

1. renovate, build, buy, extend, replace, or carry out major alterations in their facilities;

2. (a) replace windows, doors, boilers, and other heating and ventilation system components, internal communication systems, lockers, and ceilings; (b) upgrade restrooms; (c) replace and upgrade lighting; or (d) install security equipment; and

3. repay debt incurred for school building projects.

Participation in the Teachers' Retirement System

The act requires, rather than allows, otherwise qualified charter school professionals first employed by any charter school on or after July 1, 2010 to participate in the TRS. The act continues voluntary participation for those hired before July 1, 2010.

Charter Management Organization

The act requires the SBE to adopt regulations, by July 1, 2011, concerning “charter management organizations” (CMOs), which the act defines as any entity with which a charter school contracts for (1) educational design; (2) implementation; or (3) financial, business, operational, and administrative functions. The regulations must:

1. prohibit a charter school and its operating CMO from sharing board members with other charter schools and their CMOs;

2. require any sharing of management personnel to be disclosed;

3. prohibit unsecured, noninterest bearing transfers of state and federal funds between charter schools or CMOs;

4. define allowable direct and indirect costs and the method CMOs must use to calculate per-pupil service fees charged to charter schools; and

5. permit CMOs to collect private donations to distribute to charter schools.

20 — IN-SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS

The act gives school officials express authority to use a student's past disciplinary problems that have lead to the student being suspended or expelled as a criterion for determining whether an out-of-school suspension is warranted in a particular case. Before determining that an out-of-school suspension is appropriate, the school must have tried to address the problem through means other than an out-of-school suspension or expulsion, including through “positive behavioral support” strategies. The act does not define this term but it is generally considered to mean using research-based strategies to increase quality of life and decrease problem behavior by teaching a person new skills and changing his or her environment.

By law, starting July 1, 2010, student suspensions must be in-school suspensions unless the school administration, at the required hearing on any suspension, determines that a student poses enough of a danger to school property or is such a disruption to the educational process that he or she must be excluded from school during the suspension. The act also requires school authorities to determine at the hearing whether the student's past disciplinary problems warrant an out-of-school suspension.

BACKGROUND

Low-Achieving Schools/Districts

Under the state accountability law (CGS 10-223e) and the federal NCLB Act (P. L. 107-110), the state must identify all schools and districts in need of improvement. If these schools also require corrective action under NCLB, they are designated as low-achieving and are subject to intensified SBE supervision.

School Reorganization Models

The turnaround, restart, and transformation models are all detailed in the NCLB law. They are each intended to restructure low-achieving schools.

The turnaround model includes, among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50% of the school's staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new or revised instructional program with increased learning time. It includes continuous use of data to inform and differentiate instruction.

In the restart model, a school district converts a school or closes a school and reopens it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an educational management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process. This model is anticipated to mean that much of the school staff will not return under the new management, although that is not stated explicitly.

The transformation model includes, among other things, replacing the principal; implementing a new evaluation system that uses student academic growth as a significant factor; and identifying, supporting, and rewarding staff who are increasing student outcomes and removing staff who are not. It includes continuous use of data to inform and differentiate instruction.

Charter Schools

Connecticut law defines a charter school as a nonsectarian public school organized as a nonprofit corporation and operated independently of a local or regional board of education. The SBE grants and renews the charters, usually for five years and, as part of the charter, may waive certain statutory requirements applicable to other public schools. A charter school may enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in accordance with its charter.

Charter schools are open to all students, including special education students, though they may limit the geographic areas from which students may attend. If a school has more applicants than spaces, it must admit students through a lottery.

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