OLR Research Report

January 13, 2005




By: Soncia Coleman, Research Analyst

You asked for a chronological overview of the highlights of education policy in Connecticut from 1980 to the present regarding teacher salaries and credentialing, mandatory testing, and education enhancement, including policies arising from desegregation lawsuits.

This report provides brief summaries of selected major education acts passed by the General Assembly since 1980. In many instances, the acts were designated by this office as major education public acts in our annual major public acts report. Public act numbers are included for your reference. Please note that not all of the provisions of the act are summarized. You may reference the public act summary books, published annually by this office since 1973, for a more detailed discussion of any act or for comprehensive summaries of all public acts related to education.


Education Enhancement

PA 81-78 lengthened the school day by requiring school districts to provide a yearly minimum number of hours of actual school work spread over a 180 day school year. For grades one through 12, the requirement was set at 900 hours.


PA 81-141 required the inclusion of special education students in proficiency examinations.



PA 82-387 required any student testing below grade level or a comparable level of expected performance on any part of the statewide 9th grade proficiency test to retake that part annually, but specifically stated that passage was not a condition of graduation.

Teacher Credentialing

PA 82-391 eliminated the requirement that state colleges offer teacher preparation programs.


Education Enhancement

PA 83-282 set minimum credit requirements for high school graduation beginning with the class of 1987.


PA 83-369 exempted students enrolled in bilingual education or english as a second language programs for two years or less from the mandatory general acheivement tests and the statewide 9th grade test.

The State Board of Education (SBE) began administering a 9th grade statewide proficiency test in 1979. Local boards were required to adopt and administer achievements tests in grades three, five, and seven. PA 83-454 moved the statewide proficiency test to the 8th grade. Local boards were still required to administer tests three times at any point between 1st and 8th grade, as long as tests were not administered in three consecutive grades.


Education Enhancement

PA 84-293 established minimum course requirements and raised, from 18 to 20, the state mandated minimum credit hours for high school graduation. Previously, local boards set course requirements.

PA 84-265 instituted the priority school district grant program as a three-year pilot program to help between 10 and 25 districts with the greatest demonstrated need.


PA 84-265 replaced the requirement for locally adopted and administered achievement testing in elementary grades with a program of annual statewide mastery tests administered by the SBE beginning in the 1985-86 school year for the 4th grade and the 1986-87 school year for the 6th and 8th grade.


Education Enhancement

A number of grant programs were established in 1985 to enhance education, including a three-year pilot program to increase student time on task (PA 85-487) and a three-year competitive grant program to assist school districts in establishing or expanding summer school services for students in grades kindergarten through eight needing remedial instruction (PA 85-576) .

Teacher Credentialing

In accordance with PA 85-532, in order to be admitted to an SBE-approved teacher preparation program after June 30, 1986, students were required to pass an SBE competency test in reading, writing, and math. Prospective teachers were required to pass the competency test and a test concerning their subject matter specialty and professional knowledge in order to apply for a teaching certificate after May 1, 1987. Under prior law, entrance requirements for programs were set by the respective schools and graduates from SBE-approved programs were granted provisional certificates upon application.


Teacher Salaries and Credentialing

PA 86-1 (Education Enhancement Act of 1986) established a series of interrelated grants to encourage school districts to raise teachers' salaries. It raised teacher certification standards, creating a three-tiered (initial, provisional, and professional) certification system to replace the existing one (provisional and standard) and created a new entry- level certification and related teacher support program. The act required periodic certification renewal and established an alternate route to certification that did not require degree in education.


Teacher Salaries and Credentialing

PAs 87-2 and 87-325 revised the education enhancement act by changing the way eligibility was determined and grant amounts were calculated for teacher salary grants.

PA 87-250 made teachers' work hours, with certain exceptions, a mandatory subject of collective bargaining and applied the existing binding arbitration laws to negotiations over certain conditions of employment.

PA 87-499 eliminated the statutory criteria for temporary teaching certificates and instead required the SBE to adopt regulations governing them.

Education Enhancement

PA 87-357 required the SDE to establish a competitive grant program to help boards establish, expand, or evaluate extended-day kindergarten programs

PA 87-499 made the priority school district grant program permanent.


Educational Enhancement

PA 88-191 continued the 1985 pilot summer school grant beyond FY 1987-88 and made it a permanent program.

Teacher Credentialing

PA 88-273 created additional requirements for continuing education and the beginning teacher support program.

PA 88-360 set out criteria for denying teacher certification to an applicant, provided deferrals from certain certification requirements to specific categories of teachers, modified the special education course requirement for teachers, eliminated the waiver of certification requirements for bilingual teachers as of 1989, and extended the time for which provisional certificates held by people who had not been teaching continuously were valid.


Teacher Credentialing

PA 89-137 required that funds for the cooperating teacher and beginning teacher programs and for continuing education institutes be paid to school districts to hire substitutes while teachers were participating in these programs.

PA 89-355 established a pilot program to assist paraprofessionals in obtaining certificates as teachers.



PA 90-324 required that a mastery test be given to 10th grade public school students, beginning with the 1993-94 school year; required school boards to prepare annual strategic profiles measuring student needs, school resources, and student and school performance for all their schools beginning on May 1, 1992; and gave the education commissioner the authority to require school boards to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.


Educational Enhancement

PA 91-269 established a competitive grant program to help school boards and nonprofit agencies that receive federal Head Start grants set up year-round, full-day Head Start programs, or expand existing programs. The grants were funded from federal money and private donations.

PA 91-285 required the education commissioner, within available appropriations, to establish a four-year demonstration program to encourage school boards to develop innovative educational programs. It also established a task force to study the feasibility of groups of at least 10 educators establishing and running "charter schools."

PA 91-7 eliminated grants for extended day kindergarten programs, remedial summer school programs, and professional development for teachers.

Teacher Credentialing

PA 91-288 required public school teachers and other certified professionals to complete 90 hours, instead of nine continuing education units (CEUs), of professional development activities every five years in order to renew their professional educator certificates.

PA 91-361 expanded SDE's pilot program that helped paraprofessionals become certified teachers.


Education Enhancement

PA 92-143 established the Commission on Educational Excellence for Connecticut to evaluate the public education system; identify barriers to students' achieving equal educational opportunity and high standards of performance; review the adequacy,equity, effectiveness, and efficiency of state education funding; develop a plan to promote an outcome-based, world-class educational system that prepares all students to attain excellence, have meaningful lives, and participate in the internationally competitive workforce; and study the feasibility of implementing a high school examination similar to the New York State Regents exam.

PA 92-222 expanded the Head Start grant program to cover establishing extended-day programs, enhancing program quality, or increasing the number of children served.


PA 92-58 required a certification to be made on a student's transcript and permanent record, if he meets or exceeds the state-set mastery goal on each component of the 10th grade test. It required any student who scores below mastery on each component to retake that component annually until he meets the goal, graduates, or turns 21.

PA 92-262 required, after September 1, 1993, 9th grade students who scored below the remedial level on any part of the 8th grade mastery test to retake the component in the 9th grade.



PA 93-263 required all towns to participate in a planning process to develop regional plans to (1) improve the quality of student and school performance; (2) reduce barriers to opportunity (such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of housing and transportation); (3) enhance student diversity and awareness of diversity; or (4) address, with quality bilingual and limited-English-proficient programs, the needs of students whose proficiency in English is limited. It authorized the SBE to withhold education grants from towns or school districts that failed to participate in good faith.


PA 93-353 required students to retake the 10th grade mastery test if they fail to meet the standard for remedial assistance on its reading, mathematics, and language arts components, instead of on each component of the exam. The act extended, from two to three years, the time for which bilingual and English-as-a-second-language students were exempt from taking any of the mastery exams, which are administered in the 4th, 6th, 8th, and, beginning in 1993, 10th grades.


Education Enhancement

PA 94-245 allowed priority school district grants to be used for academic enrichment, tutorial, and recreation activities in school buildings when school is not in session.

Teacher Credentialing

Beginning January 1, 1995, PA 94-245 removed the requirement that individuals' achievement of satisfactory scores on all components of the teacher competency exam be accomplished in one administration of the test.


PA 94-245 removed the requirement that students who failed to meet the remedial standard on all components of the 8th or 10th grade mastery tests be required to retake the components until they do so.


Education Enhancement

PA 95-226 established a competitive grant program for the operation of magnet schools and made changes to other interdistrict grant programs; reinstated and made changes to the priority school district program; and required SDE to provide grants to help school boards establish school readiness programs, within available appropriations.

Teacher Credentialing

PA 95-58 increased the time it takes teachers to attain tenure, reduced the maximum time that tenured teacher termination proceedings can take, imposed restrictions on termination proceedings for nontenured teachers, and strengthened teacher evaluation requirements.

PA 95-226 phased out the program that helped paraprofessionals become teachers.


Educational Enhancement

PA 96-213 specified that school boards may (1) develop intradistrict student assignment programs that allow parents to select which public school in the district their children will attend and (2) provide transportation for participating students.

PA 96-214 authorized, beginning July 1, 1997, the creation of two kinds of nonsectarian charter schools: converted public schools approved by a school board and new schools approved by the SBE; set out procedures for charter approval, renewal, remediation, or revocation; set out professional staff requirements and entitlements; entitled a local charter school to the amount specified in the charter and a state charter school to 105% of the foundation level of spending for each child who attends; identified powers and responsibilities of the schools; and required annual reports from the schools to the education commissioner and from the commissioner to the Education Committee.


Educational Enhancement- Sheff Related Legislation

School Choice- PA 97-290 established a statewide interdistrict public school choice program to improve academic achievement; reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation or preserve racial and ethnic balance; and provide students with a choice of educational programs. The choice program was to be phased in over three years, with statewide operation by the 1999-2000 school year. Districts enrolling students from outside ("receiving districts"), including districts with Project Concern enrollees, were entitled to a state grant of up to $ 2,000 for each out-of-district student they enroll up to a maximum of 1,000 total students for the 1998-99 school year.

The act also (1) made it an educational interest of the state for school districts to provide opportunities for students to interact with those from other backgrounds and required reports on reducing isolation; (2) imposed new requirements on interdistrict magnet schools and cooperative programs to reduce isolation of students; (3) removed some restrictions on the kinds and locations of charter schools and imposds criteria to reduce isolation of their students; and (4) required the state and local school boards to promote parent and community involvement in schools

School Readiness- PA 97-259 authorized numerous approaches to expanding the number and quality of school readiness and day care programs by providing grants, loans, and other financing; emphasizing program accreditation and evaluation; and tightening the system for checking day care employees' credentials.

It revamped the prior, unfunded school readiness program and required SDE and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to provide grants for school readiness and day care programs, respectively. It also required DSS to give grants to school readiness providers for child care services so they can increase the hours they operate and to school readiness or day care providers to get accredited and upgrade their equipment, facilities, services, and staff training. It made SDE the lead agency for school readiness, targeted school readiness funds to needy areas, limited grants to programs serving children who are at least three and not eligible to go to school, capped the per-child grant, and required staff training. It requried both school readiness and licensed day care providers to charge a sliding-scale fee based on family income.

It established three new mechanisms for state funding for construction and renovation of day care facilities, Head Start programs, and facilities that house school readiness programs: Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority loans, DSS loan guarantees, and direct microloans from DSS. It increased school construction grant program funds for these facilities and raises day care-related tax credits for businesses.

The Hartford Public Schools Takeover- SA 97-4 required the state to take over the Hartford school district for between three and five years beginning June 1, 1997. It replaced the Hartford Board of Education with a new State Board of Trustees for the Hartford Public Schools. It set up a procedure for the trustees to propose revisions in existing labor contracts and amended the usual binding arbitration decision process if the trustees and the district's union reach an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations.

The act required (1) the city to maintain local education spending for the first two years after the takeover; (2) Hartford's elementary and secondary schools to become accredited; (3) a fiscal and operations audit and the development of a long range facilities plan; (4) appointment of two state monitors to oversee district progress; (5) appointment of a seven-member advisory council, including parents, teachers, principals, and college representatives; and (6) quarterly reports from the education commissioner and the State Board of Education to the governor and the Education Committee on the district's new management and progress. The act accelerated the legislative approval process for state grants to improve Hartford Public High School's physical facilities and established a transition process for the return to local control.

Educational Enhancement

PA 97-318 required (1) the State Board of Education to develop a standard , including the possibility of requiring a specific score on a standardized test, for school boards to use to measure reading competency for first through third graders, and (2) reduced the amount of Project Concern grants to receiving districts.


Educational Enhancement

PA 98-243 required each school district in the state to develop and implement a three-year plan to improve the reading skills of students in the early grades and to provide in-service training for elementary school teachers in how to teach reading. It established state grants to help the 14 largest and most economically and educationally needy school districts ("priority districts") as well as economically and educationally needy elementary schools in other districts ("priority schools") to: (1) improve the reading skills of younger students, (2) reduce class sizes in the early grades, and (3) establish full-day kindergarten programs. In general, the act required an eligible district to use at least 50% of its grant for intensive early reading intervention programs. The act also gave eligible school districts an additional 5% state reimbursement for construction projects related to establishing all-day kindergarten programs or reducing class sizes in the early grades.

The act required priority districts to test their first- through third-grade students' reading levels and to offer summer reading programs to students who do not read well. It allowed such districts to promote students who do not read at grade level to a higher grade only with extra help and written justification.

It also required children to start school at age five instead of age seven unless their parents appear in person at the school district office when the child is five and again when he is six to sign an option form not to send the child to school until age six or seven.

Finally, the act established grants to help priority districts buy books for school libraries and make improvements to school buildings, required new and already certified elementary teachers to be trained in how to teach reading, established two pilot early childhood education programs, and required the education commissioner to do a long-range study of the effects of the early reading programs on participating children.


Educational Enhancement and Teacher Credentialing

PA 99-211 revamped bilingual education programs by, among other things, requiring them to continuously increase the use of English for instruction and provide more than half the instruction in English by the end of a student's first year in the program. It limited the total time a student may spend in a bilingual program to 30 months (three school years), with some exclusions.

The act required the State Board of Education to establish an English mastery standard for local boards to use to measure the linguistic and academic progress of students in bilingual programs and required the local boards to measure student progress toward the standard every year and provide support to students who do not make enough progress.

The act raised standards for bilingual education teachers. The act allowed districts that cannot hire enough certified bilingual education teachers to use a person certified to teach English as a Second Language, instead of an uncertified teacher, for bilingual classes.

PA 99-288 required the education commissioner to compile a list of elementary and middle schools that need improvement, based on mastery test scores. School boards with listed schools were required to develop and implement school improvement plans for them. If the schools failed to progress after two years, boards were required, with the commissioner's approval, take one or more specific actions to close or revamp them, transfer their employees, and allow students to attend other public schools in the district.

Starting in the 2000-01 school year, priority school districts were required to give additional instruction to students who did not meet the remedial standard on the 4th grade mastery test, and starting in the 2001-02 school year, to students who did not meet the standard on the 6th grade mastery test. It required these students to go to summer school in the summer following the test unless exempted. The act barred them from promotion to the next grade if, after being offered the opportunity to go to summer school, they failed do so. The act also required all local school boards to review and revise their promotion policies by July 1, 2000 to make sure they foster student achievement, reduce social promotions, and help failing students.


Educational Enhancement

PA 00-187 established a grant program for schools the education commissioner listed as needing improvement, except for Hartford schools (only for FY 2000-01). Districts were required to use 10% of their grants for library partnership programs. It allowed former priority school districts to continue receiving school readiness grants after they no longer qualified as priority school districts and, starting in FY 2001-02, extended eligibility to transitional school districts that were not former priority districts. The act provided grants and other incentives to address the teacher shortage in certain subjects and in certain districts, including a Connecticut Housing Finance Authority mortgage assistance program for certified teachers employed by priority or transitional school districts or teaching in a subject shortage area.


Educational Enhancement

PA 01-1 restricted mandatory participation in the Open Choice Program in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and New London starting in the 2001-02 school year. Under the act, the percentage of white students from those districts who leave to attend school in other districts as part of the program cannot be greater than the percentage of white students enrolled in public schools in those districts in the preceding school year.

The act made the Open Choice Program voluntary rather than mandatory for 10 remaining priority districts and delayed its start until September 2003. It made the program in these 10 districts an "in-only" transfer. It allowed students from outside these districts to transfer to schools in them but only if they bring racial, ethnic, and economic diversity. Students from the 10 districts may not transfer out.

The act also established a facility renovation grant for eligible charter schools.

PA 01-166 required local and regional school boards, by September 1, 2002, to (1) specify the basic skills students in the Class 2006 and thereafter need to graduate from high school and (2) include a process for assessing students in those skills. The act required boards to use the 10th grade test as one, but not the exclusive, assessment. They were also required to identify courses for students who have not successfully completed the assessments to help them reach satisfactory levels before graduating.

PA 01-173 limited the priority school districts' duty to provide additional instruction to 4th graders to those who fail to meet the remedial standards on the reading component of the 4th grade mastery exam. Prior law required them to provide extra instruction to 4th graders who failed any part of the exam. The act also required only the 4th graders who fail the reading component of the exam to attend summer school

Teacher Credentialing

PA 01-1 expanded the alternate route to certification program and established other alternative certification programs to address teacher shortages.


PA 01-205 altered state mastery test exemptions to comply with federal law. It required a special education student's planning and placement team to determine whether an alternate assessment instead of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) is appropriate for the student. The act required the team to use an alternate assessment as specified by the State Board of Education. Under prior law, the team decided whether a student should take the CMT or be exempt from all testing.

The act reduced, from 30 to 10 months, the period during which bilingual and English-as-a-second-language students may be exempt from taking the CMT. It required the SDE to review the availability, utility, and cost of providing students in bilingual programs with subject matter tests in their native language.



PA 02-7 expanded the mastery test exemption for limited English proficient students. It considered a student to have limited English proficiency if he (1) was not born in the United States or comes from a country where English is not the dominant language and (2) has sufficient difficulty reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English that he may not be able to learn successfully in an English-language classroom or participate fully in American society.

It also replaced the existing school accountability law with an accountability plan aligned with the new federal No Child Left Behind law and prepared by the education commissioner. The act provided a transition from the existing to the new program for the 28 schools already identified by the education commissioner as needing improvement under the state law.

The act required the education commissioner to prepare a statewide education accountability plan that, consistent with the federal law and its regulations (1) identifies schools and school districts needing improvement, (2) requires them to develop and implement improvement plans, and (3) uses a system of rewards and consequences. The act required the 28 schools already identified as needing improvement under existing state law to continue in that status and continue implementing the improvement plans they developed under state law until June 30, 2004.



PA 03-168 required statewide achievement tests for public school students in grades 3, 5 and 7, starting in 2005-06. Adding these to the existing 4th, 6th and 8th grade tests, results in annual testing for students in grades 3-8 as required by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The act also established statewide science exams for students in the 5th, 8th, and 10th grades, starting in the 2007-08 school year, as required by the federal act.


Teacher Credentialing

PA 04-15 increased the minimum required number of early childhood education or child development credits from nine to 12 for staff holding credentials from a commissioner-approved organization. It also expanded the qualifications of people who may serve as school readiness staff.

PA 04-138 required SBE to issue a Connecticut provisional or professional education certificate with appropriate endorsement to nationally board-certified teachers from out of state who meet certain conditions.