Connecticut’s Year of Education Reform produced a landmark education reform bill.  Senate Bill 458 mandates the type of integrated changes that will help Connecticut to close its achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all students. A summary of key elements of Senate Bill 458 is below.  The full bill can be found here and an analysis of the bill by the Office of Legislative Research can be found here.

Turning Around Low-Achieving Districts and Schools 

S.B. 458 establishes a tiered framework for monitoring the performance of all districts and schools and for identifying the lowest-achieving schools in the state. Under this plan, districts and schools are classified into five categories based on district and school performance indexes that uses student achievement data to identify their respective levels of achievement. The plan establishes a differentiated framework for intervention, and provides the State Department of Education and Commissioner of Education with greater authority to intervene in the lowest-achieving districts and schools. Additionally, S.B. 458 establishes a Commissioner’s Network of Schools. Schools within the Network will have a turnaround committee – comprised of an administrator, a parent, three union representatives, and the Commissioner – to build and implement a plan for turning around that particular school. Further, S.B. 458 permits the Commissioner of Education to develop a turnaround plan for one school in 2012, and five additional schools in 2013 and 2014, with the option to partner with an institution of higher education or to assign the schools’ management to a non-profit organization.

Fostering Great Teachers and Leaders

Under S.B. 458, the evaluation and support guidelines that were created by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) and approved by the State Board of Education will initially be implemented in a two-year pilot program. The PEAC evaluation model will be piloted in eight to ten geographically diverse districts and then implemented statewide. The bill also redefines tenure as the completion of forty school months of employment, provided that the superintendent offers a teacher a contract to return on the basis of effective practice – based upon the teacher’s performance evaluation. The new bill specifically establishes ineffectiveness as grounds for dismissal for tenured and non-tenured teachers, and also shortens the timeline for dismissal proceedings and hearings. The bill also eliminates the Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) system and replaces it with an annual requirement for teachers to receive 18 hours of professional development focused on practices to improve student achievement.

Investing Intelligently

Finally, S.B. 458 calls for the State Department of Education to develop and implement a uniform system of accounting for school revenues and expenditures, which will allow it to study the efficiency and efficacy of how education dollars are being spent across the state.  It also significantly increases funding for charter schools and calls for conditional funding in our lowest-achieving districts to ensure increases in education funding are used effectively.
This comprehensive package of education reforms – envisioned by Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor, debated and vetted by numerous stakeholders, and approved by Connecticut’s legislators – is one of which we should all be proud.  It is a bold step that lays the foundation for the transformation of Connecticut’s education system.