The Commissioner’s Network: A Key Strategy for Turning around CT’s Lowest-Performing Schools

With 135 schools that have been designated as “In Need of Improvement” for five or more years, the Commissioner’s Network of schools is an innovative and strategic approach to turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools. Established in Senate Bill 458, the Commissioner’s Network provides the State Department of Education with the flexibility and resources to intervene in and support the turnaround of twenty-five of Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools within the next three years. 

Implementation of the Commissioner’s Network 

The State Department of Education is sparing no time with the implementation of the Commissioner’s Network. Based on guidelines adopted at the State Board of Education meeting on June 6, the Commissioner of Education intends to announce the initial Commissioner’s Network schools, determine turnaround committee members and initiate operations and instructional audits this week. The submission deadline for turnaround plans is set for mid-July, with negotiations and agreements to be concluded by September. In all cases, the State Board of Education must approve final turnaround plans.

Turnaround Committees and Plans

Once the Commissioner’s Network schools have been identified, local boards of education with oversight of a school in the network, will be required to establish a turnaround committee, comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and the Commissioner. The committee’s first responsibility will be to assist the State Department of Education in conducting an operations and instructional audit of the school. Using the results of the audit, the turnaround committee, with input from school governance councils, will be responsible for developing and reaching consensus on a turnaround plan that is based on one of five approved turnaround models. Turnaround plans shall and may include:

  • Specific academic goals to be met in three years and annual interim objectives
  • Specific and transformative strategies to establish or maintain-
    • Strong family and community connections
    • Policies and programs to attract, support and retain effective leadership and teaching staff (including reassignment of staff and election to work agreements)
    • Strategic use of data and time (including extending the school day and year)
    • Strong curriculum and school culture that is based on meeting and addressing students needs.
  • Details on how the plan differs from previous turnaround efforts and will modify or remove legal, bureaucratic, staffing and resource constraints
  • Proposed budget for supplemental funding and the re-purposing of existing education dollars
  • Assistance from partner organizations

In the event that the committee does not develop or submit a plan, fails to reach consensus or the Commissioner deems the plan to be deficient, the Commissioner can develop an alternative or new plan – and if deemed necessary, appoint a special master to implement the turnaround plan. The Commissioner’s Network is a bold step towards turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools. Stay tuned for updates and news as the State Board of Education, State Department of Education, local boards of education and turnaround committees begin this important work.