The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a statewide non-profit 501(c)3 organization, formed in 2011, that represents business and civic leaders who support comprehensive education reform efforts to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students. CCER believes that every child in Connecticut deserves an exceptional education, without exception. Last year’s education reform act moved the state towards our goal of eliminating the achievement gap.
Governor Malloy has proposed three bills to the General Assembly that will implement his education recommendations (see below). Each of them touches on one or more of CCER’s priorities by extending existing programs (such as Alliance Districts), restructuring state government operations and oversight (Office of Early Childhood), or establishing pilots as proof points for professionalizing teaching and leading through innovative practices that mirror our own recommendations (Unleashing Innovation in CT schools).
Finally, for each of the three legislative proposals, CCER recommends that statutory language include success metrics for each of the components of the bills, along with a public reporting requirement.
1. Early Childhood
CCER Recommendations –
- Fund more Pre-K opportunities for low-income children in the next four years
- Conduct an annual analysis of publicly funded Pre-K programs success and kindergarten readiness
- Develop and implement a Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS)
- Establish a new commissioner of early childhood education and care
Governor Malloy’s H.B. 6359, An Act Concerning an Early Childhood System, would form an Office of Early Childhood charged with doing many of the things on our earlier list of priorities. This office would integrate the currently disjointed system of early childcare and early learning under one roof. It is charged with establishing a TQRIS, analyzing unmet need for low-income children with access to high quality Pre-K and establishing a longitudinal study of school readiness for Pre-K to grade four. This will create a more effective platform for increased access for low-income children to high quality Pre-K.
2. Foster Leadership and Excellent Teaching
CCER recommendations –
- Provide districts with the flexibility to hire exceptionally qualified administrators (reciprocity)
- Establish ARC administrator programs
- Establish incentive programs to attract and retain exceptional leaders in low-achieving schools
- Remove barriers to attracting out-of-state certified teachers including reciprocity
- Streamline the process for great teachers to become school leaders
- Establish an incentive program to attract and retain exceptional teachers in low-achieving schools
- Restructure teacher compensation to include career levels with increasing pay and performance bonuses
- Expand ARC teaching programs
- Create incentive programs to encourage bright students to pursue teaching
Governor Malloy’s H.B. 6358, An Act Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools, establishes a Teaching Profession Initiative Pilot program in three (3) districts that allows the SBOE to waive teacher and leader certification requirements and finance programs to recruit, retain and reward great teachers and leaders. CCER believes that ten (10) school districts should be considered for flexibilities that include:
- Local professional standards board that may waive certification requirements for teachers and administrators and develop parameters for recruiting high quality teacher and administrator candidates and related selection criteria
- Career ladders that offer professional advancement in recognition, responsibilities and compensation
- Criteria to supplement the standards established by the department for the issuance of a distinguished educator and
- Other innovations designed to attract, develop, retain, recognize and reward high quality teachers and administrators
3. Turnaround Schools
CCER recommendations –
- Increase the number of early reading/literacy pilot programs
- Expand extended learning time opportunities
Governor Malloy’s H.B. 6358, An Act Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools, also creates significant flexibility for twenty (20) high performing or high progress districts (10 districts in 2014 and 10 districts in 2015) in the area of extending learning time and flexible learning environments. CCER believes that more districts could benefit from this flexibility and should be included.
Governor Malloy’s H.B. 6357, An Act Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education, provides implementation language for the Governor’s proposed budget, which includes the following elements, all significantly related to turning around schools and closing achievement gaps:
- Of the new $50 million in FY 2014 ECS funding, close to $48 million will be dedicated to the Alliance District communities. In FY 2015, $96 million of the $101 million in new ECS funding will go to the Alliance Districts
Expanding school choice options with more seats for State and Local Charter Schools
- 4 more State Charter schools, 5 Local Charter schools, 1000 seats in existing State Charter schools plus rate increases
- Increasing the number of schools in the Commissioners Network from 4 to 21
- Funding training for teachers and leaders as they implement the new teacher evaluation and common core standards programs
CCER recommendations –
- Review existing categorical grants for effectiveness and reallocate as appropriate towards efforts aimed at improving achievement for low-performing students
- Publicly report aggregate teacher quality and student achievement data along with financial data at school and district levels
Governor Malloy’s education proposal would reduce the number of education budget (categorical grant) line-items by 50%. Program reductions would save $37 million in each year of the biennium.
Uniform Chart of Accounts work group has established an implementation advisory to create a state Uniform Chart of Accounts data dashboard to create transparency and provide easy access to aggregate data related to school and district effectiveness and use of funds.