A Comparative Look at School Turnaround Policies and Intervention Authorities in Connecticut’s Neighboring States

Earlier in the week, we compared the proposals put forth by Governor Malloy in Senate Bill 24 (S.B. 24) by taking a look at the way in which all of our neighboring states have been incorporating measures of effectiveness into their teacher employment policies.

Today, we’re taking a look at how the proposals in S.B. 24 compare to our neighboring states’ intervention frameworks and the Commissioner of Education’s authority to intervene in the state’s lowest-performing schools.

The proposals in S.B. 24 seek to establish a performance management and support plan that would identify Connecticut’s schools on a five-tiered scale ranging from “high performing” to “lowest performing” (based on academic performance), with increasing degrees of state intervention defined at each tier.  For the lowest tiers (tiers four and five), the bill proposes that Connecticut carve out a “Commissioner’s Network”, where the greatest degree of state intervention will be imposed on chronically low-performing schools. So how do these proposals compare with the policies being advanced in our neighboring states?

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a five-tiered intervention framework that identifies how schools and districts perform on a set of academic indicators, as well as which schools and districts fail to improve from year-to-year.  The framework clearly defines the corresponding level of state intervention that a district or school will receive at each tier. Massachusetts has granted its Commissioner of Education the authority to take over low-performing districts and schools that fail to turn around after three years of intervention, including the ability to override collective bargaining agreements and expand the school day or lengthen the school year, in this group of lowest-achieving schools. At the end of 2011, Massachusetts announced that 22 out of the 35 schools had made combined gains of five percentage points or higher in student proficiency, sooner than anticipated.

 Rhode Island

In 2010, Rhode Island put new regulations into law that created a Progressive Support and Intervention system, which articulates levels by which the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education may exercise control over a school or district – based upon standards of student success established by the Department.  Persistently low-achieving schools are required to implement one of the four federal intervention models. Rhode Island has granted its Commissioner of Education the authority to order reconstitutionin the lowest-achieving schools – essentially permitting the Commissioner to move oversight over the selection and implementation of a turnaround model to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – including restructuring the school governance, personnel, budget, and/or school operation.

 New York

In 2007, New York legislation established a differentiated accountability model that groups schools into three tiers of improvement, based both upon measures of adequate yearly progress and upon the length of time that the schools have been underperforming.  Interventions by the district and State Education Department intensify as a school moves to a lower phase. New York has granted its Commissioner of Education the complete authorityto protect the educational welfare of affected students in schools that have their registrations revoked because they have continued to fail their students despite drastic intervention measures. In 2010, the Commissioner of Education in New York gained a further intervention authority in these lowest-performing schools, in that the Commissioner may select a partner organization to intervene in the schools.

New Jersey

In its application for a waiverfrom No Child Left Behind requirements, New Jersey has proposed the creation of a system of accountability and intervention. It proposes evaluating schools and districts based upon student performance as well as college- and career-readiness, and grouping them into four tiers. This differentiated recognition will result in commensurate levels of state intervention, particularly in the two lowest tiers: “focus schools” and “priority schools”.

Connecticut…

Since 2007, our neighbors have begun implementing the types of reforms that are currently proposed in S.B. 24 – reforms that establish a framework for intervention based upon performance indicators to identify and tier all schools and districts, that differentiate intervention from the state accordingly, and that give the Commissioner the needed authority to change what is not working in the lowest-achieving schools. The proposals outlined in S.B. 24 will put Connecticut on even ground with our neighboring states by allowing us to intervene in, support, and turnaround our schools and districts that are not meeting students’ learning needs. We think you’d agree that Connecticut’s students deserve nothing less.