Summary of SB 458 – An Act Concerning Educational Reform

The Following is a summary provided by the AFT CT on the recent Education Reform legislation that was passed in May. It is also worth noting that Bristol has been identified as an Alliance District under these new provisions. For more information on Alliance Districts and how that impacts Bristol, click here.

Senate Bill 458 makes numerous revisions and changes in education statutes and programs affecting (1) early childhood education; (2) school and school district operations and funding; (3) teacher and school administrator qualifications, performance evaluation, tenure, and termination; (4) the duties and responsibilities of the State Department and State Board of Education; and (5) the governance and operation of the Connecticut Technical High School System. An issue-by-issue summary appears below.

Early Childhood

  • Creates 1,000 new slots in school readiness programs in targeted districts.
    • 500 in the 10 lowest performing school districts
    • 250 in districts formerly known as priority districts
    • 250 in districts now known as “competitive districts”
  • Allows up to $80,000 of unspent funds to be used to update a study concerning space and facilities needed to provide universal early childhood education.
  • Requires the State Department of Education to develop a quality rating and improvement system for home, center and school-based early child care and learning.

Literacy

  • Extends a pilot program enacted in 2011 to study and to promote best practices in early literacy and closing the achievement gap through June 30, 2014.
  • Requires the State Department of Education to develop and approve new reading assessments that districts must use to identify K-3 students who are reading deficient. Assessments must be frequent, aligned with best practices in reading research and instruction and measure phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Mandates that K-3 teachers and teachers with the comprehensive special education or remedial reading and language arts endorsements to pass the reading instruction exam each school year beginning July 1, 2014. Results must be submitted to the state.
  • Creates a new professional development program for reading by July 1, 2013.

  • Requires the Commissioner to create an intensive reading instruction program to improve student literacy for K-3. The intensive reading instruction program must include:

    • Routine reading assessments for K-3

    • Scientifically-based reading research and instruction,

    • Intensive reading intervention strategy

    • Supplemental reading instruction and reading remediation plans,

    • Intensive summer school reading program

  • For the school year commencing July 1, 2012, the Commissioner shall select five elementary schools to participate in the intensive reading instruction program and for the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, the commissioner may select up to five such schools to participate in the intensive reading instruction program.

  • Requires the State Department of Education, in consultation with the Board of Regents for Higher Education, to design and approve a pre-literacy course for early childhood education teacher preparation programs.

  • Requires the Commissioner to establish an incentive program, within available appropriations, for schools that increase by 10% the number of students who meet reading goals on CMTs and demonstrate the methods and instruction used to achieve those results. Incentives can include, at the commissioner’s discretion, public recognition, financial rewards, and enhanced autonomy or operational flexibility. Allows private donations for the program.

Community Schools/Healthy Schools

  • Establishes 10 family resource centers and 20 school based health clinics in the 30 lowest performing districts.
  • Requires schools to provide 20 minute of daily physical activity to K-5 students.

Teacher Recruitment

  • Creates a teacher recruitment grant program in which the State Department of Education provides up to $200,000 to each of the 10 lowest performing districts to hire 5 seniors from teacher preparation programs in the top 10% of their graduating classes.

Open Choice

  • Provides additional financial incentive for larger school districts to increase open choice enrollment in order to help the state comply with Sheff.

Accountability/Transparency

  • Allows the State Department of Education to recognize exemplary schools and promote their best practices (includes charters)
  • Creates a uniform chart of accounts for school revenues and expenditures. Applies to all public schools, including RESCs, charter schools and charter management operators. The State Department of Education must post this information on its website.

School Rankings

  • Creates a new state accountability system for schools with five categories of performance (five is low, one is high). System also identifies schools that are otherwise high performing but with low performing subgroups as “focus schools,” following federal guidelines.
  • Rankings are based on overall performance and progress. Category 3, 4 and 5 schools are subject to intervention and supervision. Persistently low performing districts are also subject to interventions.
  • Requires the State Department of Education to post these rankings on its website.

The Commissioner’s Network

  • Creates a statewide Commissioner’s Network of turnaround schools of up to 25 Category 4 or 5 schools. The State Department of Education will provide additional resources to implement interventions aimed at improving student learning and closing the achievement gap. No more than two schools in a single district can be admitted per year, and no more than four schools per district can be in the network at any one time. Preference must be given to schools and unions who volunteer to participate.
  • Participation in the network is for three years with the option of continuing for two additional years.
  • 1 school beginning in the 2012-2013 school year; up to 5 schools each year thereafter
  • Up to six network schools may be operated by a nonprofit education management organization.
  • Turnaround Committee
    • Each network school must have a turnaround committee composed of six members:
      • Three appointed by the union – Two are teachers and one is a parent
      • Two appointed by the Board of Ed – One is an administrator and one is a parent
      • The Commissioner of Education or his designee
      • The superintendent is a non-voting member
    • The turnaround committee must conduct an extensive audit of instructional and other resources, needs, curriculum, etc. and must develop a turnaround plan based on those results.
    • If the turnaround committee creates a plan by consensus, any conflict between the turnaround plan and the existing collective bargaining agreement shall be negotiated between the Board of Ed and the union. Any resulting agreement must be ratified by membership. In the event of an impasse, there is a referee and expedited arbitration process.
    • If the turnaround committee does not create a plan by consensus, or creates a plan that the Commissioner deems deficient, the Commissioner shall create a plan. In that case, any conflict between the turnaround plan and the existing collective bargaining agreement shall be impact bargained, unless the plan calls for changes that exceed measures employed by comparable districts with records of at least adequate student achievement. Turnaround plan measures that exceed those of comparable districts will be fully bargained. Any resulting agreement must be ratified by membership. In the event of an impasse, there is a referee and expedited arbitration process.
    • Creates a list of 5 turnaround plan referees to be used in negotiating matters in turnaround plans that conflict with existing collective bargaining agreements. The referees must have expertise in education policy and school operations and administration and be mutually agreed upon by the Education Commissioner, AFT and CEA.
  • Provides for a process for schools to exit the network after 3-5 years.
  • Creates reporting requirements on school performance and finance.
  • Creates reporting requirements, and requirements to serve the same populations of students for education management organization who manage turnaround schools.

Parental Involvement

  • Requires School Governance Council to be established in all low performing (Category 4 and 5) schools.

Charter Schools

  • Establishes a pilot program in which charter schools in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven can be included as part of the regular school district in AYP and state accountability calculations.
  • Increases per pupil funding from $9,500 per year to $10,500 in FY 2013, $11,000 in FY 2014 and $11,500 in FY 2014.
  • Creates local charter schools and provides operating grants, within available appropriations, of $3,000 per pupil and up to $500,000 for startup costs. These grants are pending the union’s agreement on staffing flexibility and approval of the State Board of Education.
  • Allows the State Board of Education to grant new state and local charters only to schools located in towns that have a school in the Commissioner’s Network or if the district is designated as low-achieving.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to give preference when reviewing charter school applications to those who serve students (a) with a history of low academic performance or behavioral and social difficulties, (b) receiving free or reduced priced lunches, (c) requiring special education, (d) who are ELLs, or (e) who are of a single gender.
  • Allows the State Board of Education to deny a charter school’s renewal application for failure to attract, enroll and retain students (a) with a history of low academic performance or behavioral and social difficulties, (b) receiving free or reduced priced lunches, (c) requiring special education, or (d) who are ELLs.
  • Requires 2 of the first 4 new state charter schools to specialize in dual language instruction targeted at English Language Learners.
  • Requires the State Department of Education to study “opt-out lotteries” for determining enrollment in state and local charter schools. Such lotteries automatically include all students who (1) live in the district where the school is located and (2) are enrolled in any grade the school serves, unless a student chooses not to participate.

Alliance Districts

  • Establishes 30 Alliance Districts which are subsets of the lowest performing school districts. The designation will last for five years. In these districts, the Comptroller is required to withhold any additional funding compared with the prior school year and transfer it to the State Department of Education. These districts must apply to the Commissioner of Education to use such funds to implement reforms such as extended time, parental engagement, reading focus, professional development and teacher recruitment.

Teacher Preparation

  • Requires teacher preparation to include 4 semesters of field experience, clinical experience or student teaching.
  • Separate legislation, SB 384, requires the State Department of Education and the Board of Regents for Higher Education to study existing teacher preparation programs and make recommendations for improvement.

Teacher Certification/Professional Development

  • Beginning July 1, 2016, requires completion of a master’s degree in the appropriate subject area to hold a professional certificate. Allows that professional certificates shall be valid for five years and renewable based on completion of professional development program.
  • Eliminates 90 CEU’s and instead requires districts to provide at least 18 hours professional development, which should mostly be in a small group or individual instruction setting, focused on improving teaching methods, be teacher centered and be part of a job embedded process of continuous improvement.
  • Creates a Distinguished Educator certification for those who:
    • Hold a professional certificate
    • Have taught successfully for at least 5 years
    • Has advanced education in addition to a master’s degree
    • Meets performance requirements established by the State Department of Education.
  • Distinguished educators shall be eligible to serve as mentors.

Teacher Evaluation

  • Expands the required components PEAC’s model evaluation guidelines for the model program due to be completed by July 1, 2012 to include:
    • Four ratings to evaluate teacher performance: (a) exemplary, (b) proficient, (c) developing, and (d) below standard;
    • Scoring systems to determine the ratings;
    • “Periodic” training on the evaluation program both for teachers being evaluated and for administrators performing evaluations
    • Professional development based on individual or group needs identified through evaluations;
    • Opportunities for career development and professional growth; and
    • A validation procedure to audit ratings of below standard or exemplary.
    • Remediation plans for teachers whose performance is rated below standard or developing that:
      • Are developed in consultation with the affected employee and his or her union representative;
      • Identify resources, support, and other methods to address documented deficiencies;
      • Show a timeline for implementing such measures in the same school year as the plan is issued; and
      • Provide success indicators that include a minimum overall rating of proficient at the end of the improvement and remediation plan.
  • Requires annual (as opposed to “continuous”) teacher evaluation and allows for formative evaluations leading to an annual summative evaluation.
  • Allows teachers to grieve failure to provide support as well as failure to properly evaluate.
  • Creates a waiver for any district teacher evaluation program that is determined to be in substantial compliance with model teacher evaluation standards.
  • Requires the Commissioner to administer a teacher evaluation and support pilot for 8-10 districts. The law requires a study of the pilot.
  • Requires UConn’s Neag School of Education to study the pilot and submit a report no later than January 1, 2014, to the State Board of Education and the General Assembly. The study shall:
    • Analyze and evaluate the pilot program’s implementation for each participating district,
    • Compare each district’s evaluation program to the SBE guidelines, and
    • Compare and evaluate performance data from mastery and progress monitoring tests as indicators of, and methods of assessing, student academic growth and development.

Requires all evaluators to receive training in how to conduct proper evaluations. Requires teachers to be oriented to the new process.

  • Requires annual random audits of teacher evaluation practices in ten districts beginning in 2014.

Tenure

  • Grants tenure after four academic years (forty months, provided teachers have to achieve a record of “effective” practice as informed by their evaluation.
  • Due process timelines for non-renewal of non-tenured teachers are shortened and the hearing goes from being held before a panel to a single officer.
  • “Ineffectiveness” is added as a criterion to dismiss tenured teachers.
  • Tightens timelines (see chart below) and has the hearing in front of a single officer.
  • For dismissal based on a charge of ineffectiveness, the hearing shall address whether there was good faith, whether evaluation was in accord with the program and whether the charge is reasonable. Each side has six hours to present their case.
  • Teachers can still appeal an arbitrator ruling to the Superior Court.

Teacher Termination Process

Action Deadlines Under Current Law Deadline Changes Under the Bill
School board notifies teacher in writing that it is considering termination or a nontenured teacher that his or her contract will not be renewed Termination notice: Anytime

Nonrenewal notice: By May 1 annually

No change
Teacher files written request asking the board to state its reasons for the action Tenured teacher: 7 days after receiving notice

Nontenured teacher: No time limit

Termination: Not applicable (bill requires termination notice to state reasons)

Nonrenewal: Within three days after receiving the notice

Board notifies teacher in writing of reasons. 7 days after board receives request. Termination: Not applicable

Nonrenewal: Within four days after the board receives the request

Teacher files written request for a hearing Within 20 days after teacher receives termination or nonrenewal notice. Within 10 days after the teacher receives the notice
Hearings begin (Hearings may be public at the teacher’s request or if designated by the board or hearing officer. The teacher may appear and be represented by counsel.) Within 15 days after the board receives the hearing request; parties may mutually agree to extend this deadline for a maximum of 15 days Specifies calendar days
Time limits on testimony and evidence None Six hours for each side; 12 hours total

Board, board subcommittee, or hearing officer may extend the time for good cause

Board subcommittee or hearing officer submits written findings and recommendations to the full board concerning the case and sends a copy to the teacher Within 75 days after the hearing request unless the parties agree to extend for a maximum of 15 days Within 45 calendar days after the hearing request unless the parties agree to extend for a maximum of 15 calendar days
Board gives teacher its written decision Within 15 days of receiving the recommendations or, if the hearing takes place before the full board, within 15 days after the close of the hearing. Specifies calendar days.
Maximum Time From Notice to Termination 125 Days 85 Days

Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS)

  • Creates a new 11-member board to govern CTHSS:
    • 4 executives of Connecticut-based employers appointed by the governor from nominees submitted by the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission
    • 5 members appointed by State Board of Education
    • The Economic and Community Development Commissioner
    • The Labor Commissioners
    • The governor must appoint the chairperson, who serves as a nonvoting ex-officio member of the SBE. Adds the CTHSS chairperson to the State Board of Education
  • The CTHSS board and commissioner of education shall recommend a candidate for superintendent of the system.
  • Requires each technical high school to prepare a proposed operating budget for the next school year, and submit it to the system superintendent. The superintendent must collect, review, and use each school’s proposed operating budget to and use them as guide in preparing a proposed operating budget for the CTHSS system.
  • Requires the superintendent to submit a proposed operating budget for the system to the CTHSS board. If the board disapproves it, it must adopt an interim budget, which takes effect at the start of the fiscal year and remains in effect until the superintendent submits and the board approves a modified operating budget.
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