This week, Connecticut legislators in both the Senate and House voted in favor of Governor Dannel Malloy’s wide-ranging education reform bill SB 458 (formerly SB 24.) Mired in controversy from the start and perhaps a bit ambitious given the laundry list of reforms, a compromise was finally reached.
REd APPLES leadership provided testimony in support of the bill last February and have strongly advocated with local state representatives to support the bill SB 24 Op-Ed as Norwalk stands to benefit from a better evaluation process and improvements in reading instruction.
Below is ConnCAn’s high level summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the compromise bill.
High Level Summary of SB 458 (formerly SB 24)
5/8/12, 2:30 pm
SB 458, An Act for Educational Reform, is close to the original bill proposed by Governor Malloy on February 8 and presents a significant step forward for systemic, comprehensive reform. This brief summary presents strengths, weaknesses and items to keep an eye on. A more detailed ConnCAN analysis of the bill is forthcoming.
Strengths of SB 458
- Reading by Grade 3: Establishes a pilot program to enhance literacy instruction in grades k-3.
- School Turnarounds: Creates a Commissioner’s Network to intervene in up to 25 of lowest performing schools over the next 3 years. High-performing non-profit partners (such as charter school operators) can run up to six of the 25 schools. The Commissioner will have the ability to conduct impact bargaining, opening current collective bargaining agreements.
- State-Authorized Charter Schools: Increases per pupil state charter funding to $10,500 in 2012-13, $11,000 in 2013-14, and $11,500 for 2014-15 (up from current $9,400). Charter funding is now included in the state’s ECS funding statute.
- Locally Authorized Charter Schools: Provides locally authorized charter schools with $500,000 start up grants and $3,000 per pupil in additional funding from the state.
- Educator Quality: Requires annual educator evaluations, rating all teachers and administrators as exemplary, proficient, developing, and below standard. Establishes a pilot of the evaluation system in 8-10 districts to build legitimacy of system as it moves to scale.
- Teacher Tenure: Requires that teacher tenure be earned based on effective practice, with “ineffectiveness” added as a criteria for dismissal. Also streamlines the termination process for ineffective or incompetent educators.
- School Finance: Creates a common chart of accounts for all local or regional boards of education, regional educational service centers, charter schools, or charter management organizations. System will be online by June 2013.
- School Finance: Creates conditional funding for a set of Alliance Districts and Education Reform Districts. The lowest-performing districts using the new accountability measures will only get funds if they meet certain reform conditions established by SDE.
Weaknesses of SB 458
- Teacher Certification: No connection between educator evaluation and certification. Continued requirement for a subject-area master’s degree for upper-level certification. Eliminated proposed “master teacher” status in certification.
- Educator Quality: Nothing on last in/first out layoffs (LIFO) or forced placement/bumping. Potentially insufficient incentives to recruit top teachers to highest-need schools.
- School Finance: In Common Chart of Accounts, all entities (including charter schools) to disclose the receipt of revenue and donations of cash and real/personal property in the aggregate totaling $500 or more.
Items to Keep an Eye On
- School Turnarounds: Could result in process- heavy requirements. Will need to make sure the commissioner has the authority he needs and that reforms don’t get bogged down.
- Charter Schools: Gives preference to charter applications focused on English language learner (ELL) students, with two of the first four new state-approved charters requiring an ELL focus.
- Charter Schools: Funding for state-authorized charter schools will now move from state, through locality, to the charter school. Will need to ensure that districts pay the charter funds on time and in full. Also need to ensure that future changes to ECS funding will not have a negative impact on state charter funding and that future efforts do not scale back the funding escalation.
To view the entire bill click here: Education Reform Bill 458