OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 438 (File 593, as amended by House "A" and Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes numerous changes to state education laws including:

1. setting higher standards to receive a high school diploma, including increasing the minimum credits necessary to graduate from 20 to 25, starting with the graduating class of 2018;

2. requiring the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide grants, within available appropriations, beginning in FY 13 to assist school districts with the new standards;

3. giving the State Board of Education (SBE) the power, without first seeking legislative approval, to reconstitute a local or regional board of education that, after being designated as a low-achieving district, fails for two consecutive years to make adequate progress;

4. requiring (2) the SBE to develop, by July 1, 2013, guidelines for teacher evaluations that include student academic growth and (b) local district evaluations to be consistent with the guidelines;

5. requiring the SDE to expand the public school information system, by July 1, 2013, to track and report to school boards data on performance growth by students, teachers, schools, and school districts; and

6. giving school authorities explicit authority to consider a student's previous disciplinary problems when deciding whether an out-of-school suspension is warranted, as long as the school previously attempted to address the problems by means other than an out-of-school suspension or an expulsion.

The bill makes a number of changes to charter schools laws including:

1. eliminating a requirement that, when SBE issues charters for state and local charter schools, it does so only within available appropriations;

2. requiring SBE to waive enrollment limits for charter schools whose students show a record of achievement, if the school applies for a waiver;

3. making the charter school facility grant program permanent;

4. requiring teachers first employed by a charter school on or after July 1, 2010 to participate in the Teachers' Retirement System; and

5. requiring SBE to regulate charter management organizations and their relationships to charter schools.

Regarding certification for administrators and superintendents, the bill:

1. requires SDE to review and approve proposals for school administrator alternate route to certification (ARC) programs according to criteria the bill specifies and any other criteria the department requires, and

2. gives the education commissioner additional criteria to waive the requirement that a school superintendent hold a superintendent certificate issued by the SBE, if a waiver is requested by the superintendent's employing board of education and the applicant has three years of experience in, and holds a certificate from, another state.

The bill permits the school board of a priority school district to convert an existing school or establish a new school as an “innovation school” through agreements with the teacher and administrator unions at the school for the purpose of improving school performance and student achievement. By law, the education commissioner must identify low-achieving schools for reconstitution. The bill adds innovation schools to the specific reconstitution models the commissioner may choose for such schools.

The bill allows teachers and administrators who had tenure in another school district in Connecticut or out-of-state and who take a job in a priority school district to attain tenure in the new district in half the usual time, i. e. , after working 10 months rather than 20 months in the priority school district.

It allows retired teachers to teach any subject, not just a shortage subject, in a priority school district for up to two consecutive years at full salary without loss of pension benefits.

The bill expands the entities eligible for state funding to provide professional development services, technical assistance, and evaluation activities to local and regional boards of education, state charter schools, vocational-technical schools, school readiness providers, and other educational entities, as the education commissioner determines.

The bill requires school boards with low-achieving schools to create school governance councils made up mostly of students' parents or guardians. The councils are empowered to, among other things, advise the principal on the school budget before it is submitted to the superintendent, interview candidates to fill principal vacancies, and vote to reconstitute low-achieving schools using models included in the bill.

A council must indicate which reorganization model it prefers from a list of three choices in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, two choices in state law, and any other choice to be developed later under NCLB. The bill provides a process for the choice to be considered at a hearing and later the local board of education must accept it or choose an alternative. When the council and the local board make different choices, the education commissioner must pick one to implement.

It also:

1. requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to report periodically to the Education Committee on the progress of the reconstituted schools and school governance councils;

2. transfers the Parent Trust Fund from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to the SDE, allows the fund to receive state money, and requires the education commissioner, rather than DSS, to use the fund to improve parental involvement;

3. requires districts with a dropout rate of 8% or higher to provide on-line credit recovery courses;

4. requires school districts to hold two, rather than one, parent-teacher conferences a year;

5. establishes an achievement gap task force; and

6. requires high schools to offer courses for which an advanced placement exam is available.

Finally, the bill makes technical changes.

*Senate Amendment “A” strikes the entire bill and replaces it with all new provisions except those (1) eliminating a requirement that, when SBE issues charters for state and local charter schools, it do so only within available appropriations; (2) requiring SBE to waive enrollment limits for charter schools whose students show a record of achievement, if the school applies for a waiver; and (3) making the charter school facility grant program permanent.

*House Amendment “A” (1) eliminates a requirement that the public school information system collect data on the educational level of students' parents and (2) adds provisions concerning (a) school governance councils, (b) reports, (c) the Parent Trust Fund, (d) on-line credit recovery courses, (e) parent-teacher conferences, (f) the achievement gap task force, and (g) advanced placement courses.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2010, except for the teachers' retirement and charter school construction grant provisions, which are effective upon passage.

1 — ALTERNATE ROUTE TO CERTIFICATION (ARC) PROGRAM FOR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

The bill requires the SDE to review and approve proposals for school administrator ARC programs according to criteria the bill specifies and any other criteria the department requires. The bill appears to override the current law, which requires the Department of Higher Education (DHE), in consultation with SDE, to develop an ARC program for school administrators and superintendents that includes mentored apprenticeships and criteria for program admission.

Entities Eligible to Offer Administrator ARC Programs

To be approved under the bill, administrators' ARC programs must be provided by:

1. public or private higher education institutions;

2. local and regional boards of education;

3. regional educational service centers; or

4. private, nonprofit teacher administrator training organizations approved by the SBE.

Admission Criteria

The law requires DHE to develop admission criteria in consultation with SDE. This bill in effect establishes the minimum admission criteria by requiring SDE to approve only programs that require applicants to have at least:

1. a bachelor's degree from an institution accredited by the higher education Board of Governors or regionally accredited;

2. 40 months of teaching experience in Connecticut or another state, at least 10 of which must be in a public school position requiring certification; and

3. the recommendation of their immediate supervisor or district administrator, based on performance.

One-Year Residency or Other Experience as a School Administrator

Under the bill, an SDE-approved program must require a participant to complete a one-year residency either in (1) a position requiring an intermediate administrator or supervisor endorsement or (2) a full-time, 10-month, local or regional school board position under the supervision of a certified administrator and a supervisor from an institution or organization offering the ARC program. The one-year residency requirement does not apply to anyone who has 10 school months of experience as an administrator in a public or private school in another state approved by that state's appropriate SBE.

Initial Administrator Certificate

The bill requires SBE to issue an initial certificate with an administration and supervision endorsement to anyone who (1) successfully completes the administrators' ARC program and (2) (a) passes, or meets the requirements for an out-of-state administrator exemption from, Connecticut's reading, writing, and math competency exam and (b) passes the required subject matter exam. The competency test exemption applies only to a person from out-of-state who (1) holds a valid school administrator certificate in another state that SBE determines is equivalent to an initial educator certificate in Connecticut, (2) is applying for a Connecticut certificate in a school administrator endorsement area, and (3) has three years of successful experience as a school administrator in the 10 years before applying for the administrator certificate. The experience may be in a public school or a private school approved by the state board of education in the other state.

Starting July 1, 2010, the bill also requires the SBE to issue an initial certificate to a qualifying administrator ARC program graduate “notwithstanding” a statutory requirement that all applicants for initial and provisional educator certificates complete a minimum 36-hour course in understanding the growth and development of exceptional children, including handicapped and gifted and talented children and children who may require special education.

Master's Degree Requirement

The bill requires anyone who receives an initial administrator certificate after completing an administrator ARC program to obtain a master's degree within five years of receiving the initial certificate. SDE regulations currently require a master's degree, plus 18 hours of additional graduate credit among other qualifications, to receive an initial certificate in intermediate administration and supervision (CT Agency Regs. 10-145d-574).

Under the bill, a person graduating from an administrator ARC who fails to obtain a master's degree in the required time is ineligible for a professional-level administrator certificate.

2 — WAIVER OF SUPERINTENDENT CERTIFICATION

The bill gives the education commissioner additional authority to waive the requirement that a school superintendent hold a superintendent certificate issued by the SBE, if a waiver is requested by the superintendent's employing board of education.

Under current law and the bill, the commissioner may waive certification for a person the commissioner considers exceptionally qualified to be a school superintendent. To be considered exceptionally qualified, a person must:

1. have been appointed under a law allowing a local or regional board of education to appoint a person who is not properly certified as acting superintendent for up to 90 days with the education commissioner's approval,

2. have worked as a school superintendent in another state for a minimum of 15 years, and

3. be or have been certified as a superintendent by the other state.

The bill also allows the commissioner to waive certification if the person has at least three years of successful experience in a public school in another state in the 10 years prior to the waiver application date. The experience must be as a certified administrator with a superintendent certificate issued by another state.

3 — EXPANDED PUBLIC SCHOOL INFORMATION SYSTEM

By law, the SDE must develop and implement a public school information system that allows for tracking individual student performance on statewide mastery tests. By July 1, 2013, the bill requires SDE to expand the system to:

1. track and report to local and regional school boards, data on performance growth by students, teachers, schools, and school districts;

2. collect available data on enrollment in, and graduation from, higher education institutions, for students who have a unique student identifier in the system; and

3. develop a way to access and share data with the data systems of Connecticut public higher education institutions.

Student, Teacher, School, and District Data

Local districts must use the data on students, teachers, schools, and districts to evaluate students' and teachers' educational performance growth. The bill requires information in the system to be collected or calculated from information received from board of education and other relevant sources and requires school districts to report the information.

Student Data. In addition to mastery test performance, the data relating to students must include at least the

1. student's parents' educational level;

2. primary language spoken in the student's home;

3. student transcripts;

4. student attendance and mobility; and

5. for students enrolling in public school at the kindergarten level, reliable, valid assessments of his or her readiness for kindergarten.

Teacher Data. The system's teacher data must include:

1. teacher credentials, such as master's degrees, teacher preparation programs completed, and certification level and endorsements;

2. teacher assessments, such as whether a teacher is considered highly qualified under the federal No Child Left Behind Act or meets any other designations established by federal law or regulations to measure the equitable distribution of instructional staff;

3. the presence of substitute teachers in the teacher's classroom;

4. class size;

5. the teacher's absenteeism rate; and

6. whether a teacher's aide is present.

Under the bill, a “teacher” is any certified professional below the rank of superintendent who has been employed by a board of education for at least 90 days in a position requiring an SBE certificate. A “teacher preparation program” is one provided by a higher education institution or other SDE-approved program, including an alternative route to certification program, and that is designed to prepare people for professional educator certification.

The bill requires the SDE to assign each teacher a unique identifier before collecting the data.

School and School District Data. The school and district data must include:

1. school population;

2. annual graduation rates;

3. annual teacher retention rates;

4. school disciplinary records, such as data on suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions;

5. the percentage of students whose primary language is not English;

6. the number and professional credentials of support personnel; and

7. information on instructional technology, such as computer access.

Education Commissioner's Report

The bill requires the education commissioner to report to the Education Committee annually starting July 1, 2011 and continuing until July 1, 2013 on the SDE's progress in expanding the data system, including the data elements included in the system at the time of each report and those that will be added by July 1, 2013.

4 — TEACHER EVALUATIONS

The bill requires school districts to evaluate teachers partly on multiple indicators of their students' academic growth. It requires SBE, by July 1, 2013, to develop guidelines for a model teacher evaluation program that includes student academic growth and requires local school district evaluation programs to be consistent with those guidelines. The bill also establishes a Performance Evaluation Advisory Council to help SBE develop the model teacher program evaluation guidelines and the expanded data system.

Teacher Evaluation Requirements

By law, a school superintendent must continuously evaluate his or her school district's professional employees below the rank of superintendent or cause them to be evaluated. Evaluations must at least address a teacher's strengths, areas needing improvement, and improvement strategies. The bill adds a requirement that evaluations also address the academic growth of the teacher's students.

SBE Model Evaluation Program Guidelines

The bill requires the SBE, by July 1, 2013 and in consultation with the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (see below), to develop model teacher evaluation program guidelines that give guidance on using multiple indicators of student academic growth in evaluations. The guidelines must, at a minimum, include:

1. ways to measure student academic growth;

2. consideration of “control” factors tracked by the expanded public school data system that could influence teacher performance, such as student characteristics, attendance, and mobility; and

3. minimum requirements for evaluation instruments and procedures.

The law, unchanged by the bill, subjects claims of failure to follow established evaluation procedures to the grievance procedures in collective bargaining contracts negotiated after July 1, 2004.

Evaluation Programs Developed by Local and Regional School Boards

Under current law, school boards must implement evaluation programs that are consistent with SBE guidelines and with any other guidelines established by mutual agreement between a local or regional board of education and the appropriate teachers union. Boards must develop the evaluation programs with the advice and assistance of collective bargaining representatives of the teachers and school administrators. This bill also requires the local evaluation programs to be consistent with the bill's new guidelines.

5 — PERFORMANCE EVALUATION ADVISORY COUNCIL

The bill creates a Performance Evaluation Advisory Council within the SDE. The council members are:

1. the education and higher education commissioners or their designees;

2. one representative each from the following organizations and chosen by the organization: (a) the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, (b) the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, and (c) the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, the Connecticut Education Association, and the American Federation Teachers-Connecticut; and

3. an unspecified number of people selected by the education commissioner, who must include teachers, experts in performance evaluation processes and procedures, and any others the commissioner thinks appropriate.

The council must meet at least quarterly to help the SBE to develop and implement the model teacher evaluation program and the supporting data system.

6 — INNOVATION SCHOOLS

The bill permits a board of a priority school district to convert an existing school or establish a new school as an “innovation school” through agreements with the teacher and administrator unions for the purpose of improving school performance and student achievement.

Innovation Plans

An “innovation school” operates under an innovation plan which articulates areas of autonomy and flexibility in curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, school district policies and procedures, professional development, and staffing policies and procedures including waivers from or modifications to union contracts. Changes to union contracts must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the bargaining unit's members, employed or to be employed at the school. The innovation plan must include measurable goals regarding school performance and student success.

The bill requires these schools to operate under an innovation plan developed by either the faculty and district leadership or an external partner as determined by the local or regional board of education. Either group selected, faculty and district leadership, or external partner must develop the plan through an innovation plan committee, which the bill outlines (see below).

Under the bill, when faculty and district leadership are responsible for developing the innovation plan, school administrators are responsible for meeting the plan's terms. Likewise when an external partner, such as a public or private college or university, is responsible for developing the plan, it is responsible for meeting the plan's terms. The bill does not define the ongoing involvement of the external partner.

External Partners Defined

An external partner may be (1) a public or private college or university, (2) a nonprofit charter school operator, (3) an educational collaborative, or (4) a consortia authorized by the education commissioner that can include public or private colleges or universities, parents, teachers or administrator unions, or superintendents organizations.

Plan Committee

The innovation plan committee must include at least nine and no more than 11 members. Membership of a committee under either the faculty and district leadership option or the external partner option must include the following members, selected by the local or regional board of education:

1. the district superintendent, or his or her designee;

2. a member of the local or regional board of education, or his or her designee;

3. two parents who have one or more children enrolled in the school, or in the case of a new school, from the district; and

4. the principal of the school, or in the case of a new school and when the principal has not yet been hired, a principal from the school district where the new school is located.

The committee must also include two certified teachers of the school appointed by the teachers' union, or in the case of a new school when no teachers have yet been hired, two teachers appointed by the teachers' union of that district .

In the case of a plan being developed by the faculty and district leadership, the committee may not have more than four additional members who the board deems appropriate. In the case of a plan being developed by an external partner, the committee must have two representatives of the external partner, selected by the board of education, and not more than two additional members who the board of education deems appropriate.

A majority vote of the committee is required to approve the innovation plan.

Plan Elements

The innovation plan must include:

1. a curriculum plan including a detailed description of the curriculum and related programs and how the curriculum is expected to improve school performance and student achievement;

2. a budget plan including a detailed description of how funds will be used differently that other district public schools to support school performance and student achievement;

3. a school schedule plan including a detailed description of the ways, if any, the program or calendar of the proposed school will be enhanced or expanded;

4. a staffing plan that includes any proposed waivers or modifications of union agreements, subject to existing collective bargaining law and the bill's provision requiring a two-third affirmative vote to modify agreements;

5. a policy and procedures plan including a detailed description of the unique operational policies and procedures to be used and how the procedures will support school performance and student achievement; and

6. a professional development plan including a detailed description of how the school may provide professional development to its administrators, teachers, and other staff.

In order to assess the innovation school across multiple measures of school performance and student success, the plan must include measurable annual goals related to:

1. student attendance;

2. student safety and discipline;

3. student promotion and graduation and dropout rates;

4. student performance on the statewide mastery examination;

5. progress in academic underperformance areas;

6. progress among student subgroups, including low-income, limited English-proficient, and special education students; and

7. progress in reducing achievement gaps among different groups of students.

Union and Employee Agreement

The bill provides that it does not alter union agreements with administrators, teachers, and staff. Union agreements are considered in operation at an innovation school unless provisions are waived or modified in the innovation plan and agreed to by a two-thirds vote of the members of the bargaining unit employed or to be employed at the school.

School Evaluation and Superintendent Intervention

The superintendent must annually evaluate innovation schools in his or her district and submit the evaluation to the board of education and the education commissioner. The evaluation determines whether the school has met the annual goals outlined in the innovation plan and assesses the plan's implementation. The superintendent can amend or suspend one or more components of the plan after one year, if he or she determines that changes in the school district, after the plan was established, need to be addressed by changing one or more components.

If the superintendent determines that the school has substantially failed to meet the goals, he or she may:

1. amend or suspend one or more components of the plan or

2. terminate the school's authorization.

The bill prohibits the commissioner from amending or suspending one or more component before the second full year of the school's operation is finished and prohibits plan termination before the completion of the third full year of the operation.

Any amendment to, or suspension of, any component of the innovation plan that changes the union contract for any teacher at the school must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the teachers union before any such amendment or suspension of the innovation plan.

Students at Converted Innovation Schools

The bill requires boards of education to allow a student who is enrolled in a school when it is established as an innovation school to remain at the school if the student and his or her parents so choose.

7 & 501 — LOW-ACHIEVING SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS

School Governance Councils

The bill requires, on and after July 1, 2010, any board of education that has a low-achieving school as defined in state law (see BACKGROUND) due to the school not making adequate yearly progress in mathematics and reading at the whole school level to establish a school governance council for the school. If the failure to make adequate yearly progress in mathematics and reading at the whole school level was before July 1, 2010 and the school is among the lowest 5% of Connecticut schools based on achievement, the council must be established by January 15, 2011. If the school is not among the lowest 5% of Connecticut schools based on achievement, the council must be established by November 1, 2011.

The bill authorizes a school board to establish a council for a school identified as in need of improvement. (Low-achieving schools are a subset of the in-need-of-improvement group. )

The bill states a council is considered a component of parental involvement for purposes of federal funding under NCLB.

Membership, Voting Rights, and Terms. The school governance councils consist of 14 voting members plus nonvoting members. See Table 1 below.

TABLE 1: GOVERNANCE COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP AND SELECTION PROCESS

Member

Number

Selection/Election Process

Parents or guardians of students at the school

7

elected by the parents or guardians of students attending the school, each household with a student attending the school will have one vote

Community leaders within the school district

2

elected by the parent or guardian members and teacher members of the governance council

Teachers at the school

5

elected by the teachers of the school

School principal or designee (non voting)

1

principal may name a designee

Student members, high school councils only (non-voting)

2

elected by the school's student body

Voting members have two-year terms, and no member can serve more than two terms on a council. The nonvoting student members serve a one-year term, and no student member can serve more than two terms.

Council Responsibilities. School governance councils are responsible for:

1. analyzing school achievement data and school needs as they relate to the school's improvement plan prepared according to the bill;

2. reviewing the fiscal objectives of the school's draft budget and advising the principal before the budget is submitted to the superintendent;

3. participating in the hiring process of the school principal or other administrators by conducting candidate interviews and reporting on them to the superintendent and the local and regional board of education;

4. assisting the principal in making programmatic and operational changes to improve the school's achievement, including program changes, adjusting school hours and days of operation, and enrollment goals;

5. working with school administrators in developing and approving a school compact for parents, legal guardians, and students that outlines the criteria and responsibilities for enrollment and school membership consistent with the school's goals and academic focus and the ways that parents and school personnel can build a partnership to improve student learning;

6. developing and approving a written school parent involvement policy that outlines the role of parents and guardians;

7. using records relating to information about parents and guardians maintained by the local or regional board of education for the sole purpose of council election; and

8. determining whether to reorganize the school in accordance with the bill.

Reconstituting Schools. A governance council can vote to reconstitute a school under the bill's provisions during the third year after the council was established. A council may not vote to reconstitute if (1) the school was already reconstituted as a result of receiving federal education grants that were contingent on reconstitution (Sec. 10003(g) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 20 USC 6301 et seq. ) or (2) a reconstitution was initiated by another source.

A vote to reconstitute must recommend one of the following models for reconstitution:

1. turnaround;

2. restart;

3. transformation;

4. CommPACT school, pursuant to Connecticut statute (see BACKGROUND for details of models 1-4);

5. an innovation school, (see BACKGROUND) and

6. any other model developed later under NCLB.

No later than 10 days after the council tells the local or regional board of education about its vote to reorganize the board must hold a public hearing to discuss the vote.

At the board's next regularly scheduled meeting or 10 days after the public hearing, whichever is later, it must vote on whether to (1) accept the model recommended by the council, (2) select an alternative model described in the bill or (3) maintain the current school status. If the board selects an alternative model, it must meet with the governance council within 10 days of its vote to discuss which alternative to adopt.

If the board and council cannot agree, the education commissioner must decide, no later than 45 days after the last meeting between the board and the council, which of the alternatives to implement.

If the board votes to maintain the current school status, no later than 45 days after the vote, the commissioner must decide whether to implement the council's recommended model or to maintain the current school status.

Reorganization Implementation. If the final decision is adoption of a model, the board must implement the model during the following subsequent school year in conformance with the state law and applicable regulations, federal regulations and guidelines for school restructuring under NCLB, or any other applicable federal laws or regulations. It is not clear if a reconstitution decision made in May or June would give a school district enough time to reorganize a school by September.

Additional Powers of a Governance Council. In addition to the responsibilities a council must address, the bill authorizes a councils to address other issues. A council may:

1. in those schools that require an improvement plan, review the annual draft report detailing the goals in the state accountability plan prepared under existing law for low-achieving schools and advise the principal before the report is submitted to the superintendent of schools;

2. in those schools where an improvement plan becomes required under state accountability law for low-achieving schools, assist the principal in developing the plan before it is submitted to the superintendent of schools;

3. work with the principal to develop, conduct, and report the results of an annual survey of parents, guardians, and teachers on issues related to the school climate and conditions; and

4. provide advice to the principal on any other major policy matters affecting the school, except on matters relating to collective bargaining agreements between the teachers and the board of education.

The bill requires boards of education to provide appropriate training and instruction to members of governance council to aid them in executing their duties.

Annual Statewide Limits on Reconstitutions. The SBE cannot allow more than 25 schools per school year to be reconstituted under the bill's provisions. The SBE must notify school districts and governance councils when this limit is reached. A reconstitution counts toward this limit when the SBE receives notice of its by the school board and the board's final decision on it.

Evaluating School Governance Councils. The education commissioner must evaluate the councils established on or before January 15, 2011, based on the bill's criteria for monitoring reconstituted schools (see below). By October 1, 2014, the commissioner must report to the Education Committee on the evaluation. The report must include recommendations whether to continue to allow school governance councils to recommend reconstitution.

Schools Identified for Reconstitution

By law, the education commissioner must identify low-achieving schools for reconstitution. The bill adds innovation schools to the specific reconstitution models the commissioner may choose for such schools. The law already allows the commissioner to choose among any of the following reconstitution options: (1) transformation to a state or local charter school, COMMPact school, or school based on other improvement models or (2) management by an entity other than the board of education for the school district where the school is located. As under current law, the bill allows the commissioner to phase in a school's reconstitution to an innovation school.

The bill requires that, if the commissioner's required reconstitution affects working conditions, it be carried out in accordance with the Teacher Negotiation Act. This requirement already applies to several of the commissioner's other powers over schools and districts identified as low-achieving, namely: (1) providing incentives to attract highly qualified teachers and principals; (2) directing teacher and principal transfers and assignments; (3) requiring additional training for parents and guardians of children attending the school and for teachers, principals, and central office administrators a district hires; (4) directing the establishment of learning academies within schools that require teacher groups to continuously monitor student performance; and (5) implementing a plan developed by the district's board of education to address deficits in achievement and the learning environment recommended in an instructional audit.

State Reconstitution of Local or Regional Board of Education

The bill enhances the SBE's authority to replace the board of education for a local or regional school district that, after being designated as a low-achieving district, fails for two consecutive years to make adequate progress toward meeting the requirements of the state accountability law and the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Current law allows the SBE, after consulting with the governor and the chief elected official of the district, to ask the General Assembly to enact legislation allowing it to shift control of such a low-achieving district to the SBE or another authorized entity.

The bill overrides state statutes, special acts, and local charters and ordinances to allow the SBE, subject to certain conditions, to authorize the education commissioner to terminate the existing local or regional board of education for a low-achieving school district and appoint new members. The bill also requires that, before any reconstitution, the existing board members must have been required to undergo training to improve their operational efficiency and effectiveness as leaders of their district's improvement plans.

Under the bill, the SBE may implement the reconstituted board for no more than five years. Once the SBE gives the commissioner the authority, the commissioner must terminate the district's existing board and appoint new members for three-year terms. The newly appointed board may include members of the terminated board. The bill requires the SDE to offer training to the new board's members.

The new board must report to the commissioner annually on the district's progress in meeting the SBE's benchmarks for progress and the adequate yearly progress requirements of the NCLB law. If, after three years, the district does not show adequate improvement, the bill authorizes the commissioner to reappoint the board members or appoint new members for two-year terms.

The bill makes a conforming change in the statute requiring board of education members to be elected, unless otherwise provided by special act or local charter.

8 — EMPLOYMENT OF RETIRED TEACHERS

The bill expands opportunities for a school district to reemploy retired teachers who are collecting pensions from the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS).

Under current law, a retired teacher may return to work for a school district without any reduction in his or her TRS pension benefits if he or she (1) receives a salary of no more than 45% of the maximum for the assigned position and (2) works for less than a school year. This bill eliminates the second of these conditions, allowing a retired teacher to work for any amount of time at 45% of the maximum pay for the assigned position. It eliminates a current requirement that a school district notify the Teachers' Retirement Board (TRB) of such a retiree's employment twice a year on January 31 and June 30. Instead, it requires the school district to notify TRB when the person is hired and, as under current law, at the end of each assignment.

Under current law, if a retired teacher teaches in a subject shortage area, he or she may be reemployed by a school district or a higher education constituent unit at full salary and with no reduction in TRS benefits for up to one full school year with a possible extension to a second year. TRB must approve the extension after receiving a written application from the local school board or constituent unit that (1) certifies that no qualified candidates are available for the position and (2) indicates the type and expected duration of the retired teacher's assignment and the anticipate rehire dare. The bill extends this full-salary option to retired teachers who are reemployed (1) to teach any subject in a priory school district and (2) by the SBE in a subject shortage area. It does not change the conditions for extending such a rehire for a second year. Such a retired teacher and his or her employer must notify TRB at the beginning and end of the assignment.

9 — TENURE IN PRIORITY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

The bill allows any certified teacher or administrator employed by a local or regional board of education at a priority school district and who previously had tenure with another board of education in this state or another state to attain tenure after 10 months of employment in the priority school district rather than the currently required 20 months.

10 — PROVIDERS OF TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, AND EVALUATION

The bill expands the entities eligible for state funding to provide professional development services, technical assistance, and evaluation activities to local and regional boards of education, state charter schools, vocational-technical schools, school readiness providers, and other educational entities, as the education commissioner determines. Under current law, only regional educational service centers (RESCs) can receive such funds. The bill allows funding to other state education organizations, such as those representing school superintendents, boards of education, and elementary and secondary schools.

11-15 — CHARTER SCHOOLS

State Board Of Education Authority to Issue Charters

By law, the SBE must review and approve applications for state and local charter schools before the schools may begin operating. Local charter schools are funded by payments negotiated with the local or regional board of education where each of their students lives. State charter schools are funded by a state grant currently set at $ 9,300 per student for FY 10 and FY 11 ( 10-66ee, 2010 CGS Supplement).

The bill eliminates a requirement that, when the SBE issues charters for state and local charter schools, it do so only within available appropriations. It allows SBE to approve and issue charters to applicants that meet the statutory requirements without taking the state appropriation for operating charter schools into consideration. The bill does not change the charter school funding mechanisms or the state per-student grant.

Charter School Enrollment Limits

The bill eliminates the 85-student-per-grade limit entirely and requires the SBE to waive the overall enrollment limits for high-achieving charter schools that apply for such waivers.

Current law limits enrollment in any state charter school to either (1) 250 or, in the case of a K-8 school, 300 students or (2) 25% of the enrollment of the school district where the charter school is located, whichever is less. If a school applies and demonstrates a record of achievement, current law allows the SBE to waive these enrollment requirements, but still limits the school's enrollment to no more than 85 students per grade.

Charter School Facility Grants

The bill makes the charter school facility grant program permanent. Under current law, the grant was available only for FY 08 and FY 09. Under the bill, as under current law, grants remain subject to available bond authorizations.

The facility grants help charter schools:

1. renovate, build, buy, extend, replace, or carry out major alterations in their facilities;

2. (a) replace windows, doors, boilers and other heating and ventilation system components, internal communication systems, lockers, and ceilings; (b) upgrade restrooms; (c) replace and upgrade lighting; or (d) install security equipment; and

3. repay debt incurred for school building projects.

Participation in the Teachers' Retirement System

The bill requires otherwise qualified charter school professionals first employed by any charter school on or after July 1, 2010 to participate in the TRS. Current law allows such participation but does not require it. The bill continues this voluntary participation for those hired before July 1, 2010.

As under current law, charter school governing councils must withhold required TRS contributions of 6. 25% from the salaries of participating professionals and transmit those amounts to the TRB. By law, teachers employed for an average of at least one-half of each school day must participate. A “teacher” is any teacher, permanent substitute teachers, principal assistant principal, supervisor, assistant superintendent, or superintendent employed in a professional capacity while possessing an SBE-issued certificate or permit. A permanent substitute is one who serves as such for at least 10 months during any school year (CGS 10-183 (7) and (26)).

Charter Management Organization

The bill requires the SBE to adopt regulations, by July 1, 2011, concerning “charter management organizations” (CMOs), which the bill defines as any entity with which a charter school contracts for (1) educational design; (2) implementation; or (3) financial, business, operational, and administrative functions. The regulations must:

1. prohibit a charter school and a CMO operating it from sharing board members with other charter schools and CMOs,

2. require any sharing of management personnel to be disclosed,

3. prohibit unsecured, noninterest bearing transfers of state and federal funds between charter schools or CMOs,

4. define allowable direct and indirect costs and the method CMOs must to calculate per-pupil service fees, and

5. permit CMOs to collect private donations to distribute to charter schools.

16-19 — SECONDARY SCHOOL REFORM

The bill increases high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2018 and requires school districts to provide students who are unable to satisfactorily complete the new requirements with support and remedial services that are an alternative to meeting the new requirements. The bill states the SDE will provide grants, within available appropriations, to school districts to assist with implementing the new standards and support services.

The bill requires local boards of education to give a status report on implementing the higher standards by November 1, 2012 to SDE, and biennially thereafter, and requires the SDE to give a status report to the legislature by February 1, 2013, and biennially thereafter.

It also authorizes SDE to create a board examination series pilot program to allow students in grades 9 through 12 to graduate from high school by passing a series of exams instead of meeting the regular high school graduation requirements.

The bill also permits school boards to award credit toward graduation requirements for the successful completion of on-line coursework if the board has adopted an online course policy that meets standards the bill sets.

High School Credit Requirements and End-of-Year Exams

Under the bill, students must earn more credits and pass five end-of-year examinations to graduate. It raises, from 20 to 25, the number of credits required to graduate, changes course requirements, and requires the SDE to provide grants to school districts to implement the changes from FY 11 to FY 18, inclusive. The new requirements apply to the graduating high school class of 2018.

The current and proposed high school graduation requirements are shown in Tables 1 and 2 below.

Table 1: Current Minimum Graduation Requirements

Subject Area

Required Credits

English

4

Mathematics

3

Social Studies

3

(including a half credit in civics and American Government)

Science

2

Arts or Vocational Education

1

Physical Education

1

Table 2: Proposed Minimum Graduation Requirements – Starting with
Class of 2018

Subject Area

Required Credits

Humanities – 9 credits

English

4, including composition

Social Studies

3, including 1 credit in American history and a half credit in civics and American Government

Fine Arts

1

Humanities Elective

1

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – 8 credits

Mathematics

4, including algebra I, geometry, and either algebra II or probability and statistics

Science

3, including 1 in life science, 1 in physical science, and 1 in a science, technology, engineering, and math elective

Career and Life Skills – 3. 5 credits

Physical Education

1

Comprehensive health education

0. 5

Career and life skills electives, such as career and technical education, English as a second language, community service, personal finance, public speaking, and nutrition and physical activity

2

Other – 3 credits

World Languages (see below)

2

Senior demonstration project

1

The bill specifies that a world language course successfully completed in grade six, seven, or eight or online can count towards the high school graduation requirement. Current law already allows world language classes taken through a private nonprofit provider to count toward the graduation requirements. The bill requires these classes to be completed successfully, but does not define “successful.

The bill requires students, starting with the class of 2018, to pass end-of-year exams for the following courses in order to graduate: (1) algebra I, (2) geometry, (3) biology, (4) American history, and (5) 10th grade English. The bill requires SDE, by July 1, 2012, to begin development or approval of the end-of-year exams the bill requires. The exams must be developed or approved by July 1, 2014.

Student Support Service and Alternative Means of Completing Graduation Requirements

Beginning with 7th graders in the 2012-13 school year (the graduating class of 2018), local boards must provide adequate student support and remedial services for students. For those who are unable to successfully complete any of the required courses or exams, student support and remedial services must provide an alternate way for a student to meet these requirements.

The support and remedial services must at least include allowing students:

1. to retake courses in summer school or through an on-line course;

2. to enroll in a class offered at a community college or state college or university accredited regionally or by the Department of Higher Education (a three credit semester course at these institutions equals one-half credit for purposes of meeting graduation requirements);

3. who received a failing score, as determined by the education commissioner, on an end of the school year exam to take an alternate form of the exam; and

4. whose individualized education plans state that the students are eligible to use an alternate assessment to demonstrate competency on any of the five core courses through success on such alternate assessment.

For the school year starting July 1, 2012 and each following year, the bill also requires local boards to collect information for each public school student, starting in 6th grade, that includes the student's career and academic choices in grades 6th through 12th, inclusive.

Board Examination Pilot for Graduation

The bill permits the SDE to establish a board examination series pilot program that allows boards of education to permit students in grades nine through 12 to graduate from high school by passing a series of exams instead of meeting the regular high school graduation requirements.

The SBE must issue a board examination certificate to any student who has successfully completed the pilot program. The examination certificate will be considered the same as a high school diploma for purposes of student eligibility for enrollment at a public, higher education institution in Connecticut.

For the school year starting July 1, 2011, and each following year, a local or regional board of education must permit a student to graduate from high school upon the successful completion of the pilot program created in the bill in lieu of the regular credit and exam requirements under the bill or current law.

On-Line Course Credit and Policy

The bill allows local boards to award credit toward graduation for the successful completion of on-line coursework if the board has adopted an online course policy that meet the standards set in the bill. The policy must ensure, at a minimum the:

1. workload required by the on-line course is equivalent to that of a similar course taught in a traditional classroom setting;

2. content is rigorous and aligned with SBE-approved curriculum guidelines where appropriate;

3. course engages students and has interactive components, such as required interactions between students and teachers, participation in online demonstrations, discussion boards, or virtual labs;

4. on-line coursework program is planned, ongoing, and systematic; and

5. courses are (a) taught by certified (by any state) teachers who have received training on teaching in an online environment or (b) offered by higher education institutions that are regionally or Department of Higher Education accredited.

Grants to School Districts and Status Reports on the New Requirements

Under the bill, SDE will provide grants, within available appropriations, for FY 13 to FY 18, inclusive, to school districts specifically to assist with implementing the new standards and student support services the bill requires.

Each local board seeking grant assistance from SDE must give the department by November 1, 2012, and biennially thereafter, (1) a status report on implementing the higher standards and support services, and (2) an explanation of why funds are necessary for the next biennium to implement the new standards and support services.

The bill requires SDE to give a report to the Education Committee by February 1, 2013, and biennially thereafter, on the status of how school boards across the state are implementing the new standards and support services. The report must include (1) an explanation of available state and federal funds, (2) recommendations regarding the need for additional state funds for local districts, and (3) recommendations for any statutory changes that would help school boards implement the new standards and related support services.

20 — IN-SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS

The bill gives school authorities express authority to use a student's past disciplinary problems that have lead to the student being suspended or expelled as a criterion for determining whether an out-of-school suspension is warranted in a particular case. Before determining that an out-of-school suspension is appropriate, the school must have tried to address the problem through means other than an out-of-school suspension or expulsion, including through “positive behavioral support strategies. ” (The bill does not define this term but it is generally considered to mean using research-based strategies to increase quality of life and decrease problem behavior by teaching new skills and making changes in a person's environment. )

Under current law, starting July 1, 2010, student suspensions must be in-school suspensions unless the school administration, at the required hearing on any suspension, determines that a student poses enough of danger to school property or is such a disruption to the educational process that he or she must be excluded from school during the suspension.

502 — MONITORING OF RECONSTITUTED SCHOOLS

The bill requires SDE, within available appropriations, to monitor schools for two years after reconstitution for progress based on the following indicators:

1. the reconstitution model adopted;

2. length of school day and year;

3. number and type of disciplinary incidents;

4. student attendance and dropout rates and the number of truants;

5. average state mastery test scale scores;

6. for high schools, the number and percentage of students completing advance placement courses;

7. teacher attendance rate; and

8. the existence and size of the parent-teacher organizations.

By January 1, 2012, the department must report to the Education Committee on the number of school governance councils established under the bill, the number of schools that have been reconstituted, and the reconstitution models adopted. By January 1, 2013, the department must report to the committee on (1) the results of the school monitoring, (2) recommended changes in the reconstitution models available, (3) whether school governance councils should continue to recommend reconstitution, (4) a comparison of the models adopted, and (5) the progress of the schools adopting each model based on the bill's indicators.

503 — NUMBER OF SCHOOL GOVERNANCE COUNCILS AND COMPARISON OF RECONSTITUTION DECISIONS

By July 1, 2011 and every two years thereafter, the bill requires the SDE, within available appropriations, to report to the Education Committee (1) the number of school governance councils started under the bill, (2) a comparison of the councils that have initiated reconstitutions with those that have not, and (3) whether there is increased parental involvement at schools with governance councils.

The department must report annually, starting by July 1, 2011, to the committee on these school governance council evaluations.

504-507 — PARENT TRUST FUND TRANSFERRED

The bill transfers the Parent Trust Fund from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to SDE. As under current law, the education commissioner must use the fund for programs aimed at improving children's health, safety, and education through parents' community involvement. The programs must (1) train parents in civic leadership skills and (2) support increased, sustained parental engagement in community affairs.

In addition to allowing the fund, as under current law, to receive private and federal funds, the bill also allows it to receive state funds. The bill transfers the unspent balance of the existing fund under DSS to the fund under SDE. The bill eliminates the explicit authority for the parent Trust Fund to receive money through the Children's Trust Fund and makes other conforming changes.

508 — ON-LINE CREDIT RECOVERY PROGRAM

The bill requires a board of education for a school district with a dropout rate of 8% or greater in the previous school year, to establish an on-line credit recovery program for students who are identified as being in danger of failing to graduate. These students, once identified by certified personnel, must be allowed to complete on-line district-approved coursework toward meeting high school graduation requirements. Each school in the school district must designate, from among existing staff, an online learning coordinator to administer and coordinate the online credit recovery program.

509 — PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES

By law, each local and regional board of education must have written policies to encourage parent-teacher communication. Starting with the 2010-11 school year, the policies must require school districts to hold two flexible parent-teacher conferences per year.

510 — ACHIEVEMENT GAP TASK FORCE

The bill establishes a nine-member task force to study, monitor, and consider effective ways to close the achievement gap between racial and socioeconomic groups in Connecticut. The task force must consider at least: (1) systematic education planning, (2) best practices in public education, (3) teacher professional development, and (4) parental involvement in public education. It must report its findings and recommendations to the Education Committee by January 1, 2011.

The task force consists of the education commissioner or the commissioner's designee and eight members appointed by legislative leaders as follows: two each by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore and one each by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders. Appointments must be made by August 1, 2010. Appointees must reflect the geographical and cultural diversity of the state and have experience in business, education, and philanthropic organizations. Legislative leaders' appointees may be legislators.

The House speaker and Senate president pro tempore select the task force chairpersons, who must schedule the first meeting by September 1, 2010. The Education Committee's administrative staff serves as the task force's administrative staff. The task force terminates when it submits its report or on January 1, 2011, whichever is later.

511 — ADVANCED PLACEMENT COURSES

Starting July 1, 2011, the bill requires local and regional boards of education to provide high school level courses for which an advanced placement (AP) examination is available through the College Board. It also requires SBE to develop guidelines to help school districts to train teachers to teach AP courses to a diverse student body.

BACKGROUND

Low-Achieving Schools/Districts

Under the state accountability law (CGS 10-223e) and the federal NCLB (P. L. 107-110), the state must identify all schools and districts in need of improvement. If these schools also require corrective action under NCLB, they are designated as low-achieving and are subject to intensified SBE supervision.

School Reorganization Models

The turnaround, restart, and transformation models are all detailed in the NCLB law. They are each intended to restructure low-achieving schools.

The turnaround model includes, among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50% of the school's staff, adopting a new governance structure, and implementing a new or revised instructional program with increased learning time. It includes continuous use of data to inform and differentiate instruction.

In the restart model, a school district converts a school or closes a school and reopens it under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization (CMO), or an educational management organization (EMO) that has been selected through a rigorous review process. This model is anticipated to mean that much of the school staff will not return under the new management, although that is not stated explicitly.

The transformation model includes, among other things, replacing the principal, implementing a new evaluation system that uses student growth as a significant factor, and identifying and rewarding staff who are increasing student outcomes and supporting and then removing staff who are not. It includes continuous use of data to inform and differentiate instruction.

Charter Schools

A charter school is a nonsectarian public school organized as a nonprofit corporation and operated independently of a local or regional board of education. The SBE grants and renews the charters, usually for five years and, as part of the charter, may waive certain statutory requirements applicable to other public schools. A charter school may enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in accordance with its charter.

Charter schools are open to all students, including special education students, though they may limit the geographic areas from which students may attend. If a school has more applicants than spaces, it must admit students through a lottery.

The state currently has 18 charter schools, all of which are state charter schools.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

30

Nay

0

(03/24/2010)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

55

Nay

0

(04/01/2010)