PA 08-107—sHB 5871

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE BEST PROGRAM

SUMMARY: As of July 1, 2009, this act eliminates the requirement that newly certified public school teachers participate in the beginning educator support and training (BEST) program. As of the same date, it also eliminates the State Department of Education's (SDE's) authority to fund the program and local school districts' responsibility for providing support to beginning teachers in accordance with the law and SDE regulations.

In addition, the act (1) eliminates the video component from the BEST assessment for new teachers for the 2008-09 school year and (2) establishes a 21-member task force to develop a new mentor assistance program to replace the BEST program starting in the 2009-10 school year and recommend transition procedures between the old and new programs.

BEST is a two-year program of support and assessment for new teachers. Satisfactory completion of the program has been required for beginning classroom teachers employed in public schools and approved private special education facilities.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The BEST Program elimination takes effect July 1, 2009; elimination of the video component of the BEST assessment takes effect July 1, 2008; and the task force takes effect upon passage.

BEST PROGRAM ELIMINATION

Until July 1, 2009, under prior law and this act, the BEST Program provides support for teachers during their first two years of teaching through (1) mentoring by more experienced teachers and (2) assessment of their teaching ability. The assessment includes classroom assessments and review of a portfolio the teacher submits at the end of his or her second year of teaching. Starting July 1, 2009, new teachers will no longer be required to complete the program satisfactorily to retain their teaching certificates.

By law, SDE, within available appropriations, is required to (1) administer the program; (2) provide training to mentor teachers and those who supervise, train, and assess new teachers; (3) pay stipends to teacher assessors; and (4) provide funds to local school districts for (a) substitute teachers to allow release of mentor teachers and assessors from regular classroom responsibilities and (b) professional development for mentors, assessors, and beginning teachers. SDE must operate the program according to regulations it adopts. The act eliminates these requirements as of July 1, 2009.

As of that date, the act also eliminates requirements that (1) school districts provide support to their new teachers, including assigning experienced mentor teachers to help them; (2) districts select mentor teachers and any assessors they employ according to standards in SDE's regulations and based primarily on mentor teachers' and assessors' classroom experience and recognized success as educators; and (3) the State Board of Education indemnify those serving as teacher mentors and assessors from damage claims arising from their activity in those capacities.

BEST ASSESSMENT VIDEO COMPONENT

Under the BEST Program, new teachers must submit a teaching portfolio to SDE, generally near the end of their second year of BEST participation. The portfolio is used to assess the new teacher's knowledge and application of the state's teaching standards. In addition to other contents (lesson plan, student work and the teacher's assessment of that work, and the new teacher's comments on his or her teaching and students' work), portfolios have to include a videotape of the teacher's classroom instruction.

The act bars SDE from requiring new teachers to submit videos as part of their BEST assessment. The prohibition applies for the 2008-09 school year, which, under the act, is the program's last year of operation.

MENTOR ASSISTANCE PROGRAM TASK FORCE

Task Force Duties

The act establishes a 21-member task force to develop a plan for a new mentor assistance program for beginning teachers to replace the BEST Program starting in the 2009-10 school year. The plan must include:

1. requirements for a new teacher to successfully complete the new program;

2. sequential modules based on the state's teaching standards;

3. requirements for (a) mentor eligibility, assignment, and training and (b) the frequency of meetings between mentors and new teachers;

4. ways to encourage collaboration among SDE, regional educational service centers, and local school districts to identify, recruit, and retain mentors;

5. recommended transition procedures from the BEST Program to the new mentor program, including ways to evaluate beginning teachers who complete one or more of the BEST clinical assessments but have not received satisfactory evaluations as of June 30, 2009;

6. possible exemptions from the new program's requirements for teachers (a) with teaching experience in another state or a private school, (b) who teach in areas where the new program is not relevant, or (c) in other special situations for which the task force considers an exemption appropriate; and

7. recommendations for developing a data collection and evaluation system to monitor the new program on a statewide and local level.

The act also requires the task force to consider possible legislative changes to expand the categories of people who can become mentors and require:

1. a reduced classroom teaching load for mentors, as determined by local school districts;

2. new teachers to receive and complete the new program in their first two years of certification; and

3. full funding for school districts to implement the program.

Appointment and Members

The task force consists of the Education and Program Review and Investigations committees' co-chairpersons and ranking members or their designees, the education commissioner or his designee, and 12 members representing various entities or with certain qualifications and appointed by legislative leaders as follows:

Appointing Authority

Number

Member of/Qualifications

House speaker

1

Connecticut Association of Schools

1

Connecticut Federation of School Administrators

Senate president pro tempore

1

Regional vocational-technical school teacher

1

Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents

House majority leader

1

Connecticut State University faculty member who teaches in a teacher preparation program

1

Connecticut Education Association

Senate majority leader

1

Public school teacher who is or was a BEST mentor

1

American Federation of Teachers, Connecticut chapter

House minority leader

1

Connecticut Association of Boards of Education

1

Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges

Senate minority leader

1

Connecticut Parent Teacher Association

1

Public school teacher with an initial educator certificate (i. e. , a beginning teacher)

Operations and Reporting Deadline

Task force appointments must be made within 30 days after the act's passage. Vacancies must be filled by appointing authorities. The education commissioner or his designee serves as the task force chairperson and must call the first meeting with 60 days after passage. The Education Committee staff provides administrative support to the task force.

The task force must report its findings and recommendations by January 1, 2009 to the Education and Program Review committees. It terminates on that date or when it submits its report, whichever is earlier.

OLR Tracking: JSL: SNE: PF: dw