On August 9th, the State Board of Education approved and adopted the four turnaround plans for James J. Curiale School of Bridgeport, Thirman L. Milner School of Hartford, High School in the Community of New Haven, and of the John B. Stanton School of Norwich. These four schools are the first participants in the Commissioner’s Network of Schools and will begin implementing their new turnaround plans in the coming year. According to Commissioner Pryor, each of these four schools is in the bottom ten percent of schools in the state, at least 75% of each school’s student populations qualify for free and reduced lunch, and each school has been In Need of Improvement for four or more years.

Some common themes amongst the four Commissioner’s Network schools turnaround plans:

Establishing Strong School Leaders

All four schools’ turnaround plans emphasized establishing strong school leaders. The Curiale and Milner schools are replacing their principals and vice principals with leaders who have demonstrated success at turning schools around, while High School in the Community and Stanton are both planning to add new leadership positions.

Training and Retaining Effective Teachers

The turnaround plans heavily emphasize training and retaining of effective teaching staff.  About 1/3 of the teachers in High School in the Community will be new and half of the teachers formerly at the Stanton school have elected to work elsewhere. The Curiale school, on the other hand, will benefit from the new teacher evaluation system being piloted in Bridgeport, and after the first year of implementing its turnaround plan, it intends to replace all teachers rated less than “proficient” with new teachers who have “exemplary” ratings.

Extending Learning Time

All of the turnaround plans feature extending learning time, through a variety of different strategies. For instance, Milner school will add nine school days during the first year and an additional twenty-five days during the second year, as well as 12 days per year for Saturday academies.  Stanton plans to add 123 hours during its first year and 300 hours by the third year of implementation.

Building Community Partnerships

Each turnaround plan emphasizes engaging the community in the school’s efforts, through partnerships and programming.  For instance, the Curiale school plans to collaborate with local and state agencies to help train parents on how to be better advocates for their children’s educations.  Milner, in contrast, has a plan that is based upon a partnership with Jumoke Academy, another Hartford school that will help to operate Milner. The Commissioner’s Network is a bold step towards turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools.  With the start of the school year just a few weeks away, stay tuned for updates as the Commissioner’s Network schools begin implementing their turnaround plans.