Connecticut Association For Reading Research Summary Report of the Connecticut State Board of Education Meeting (CSBE) August 9, 2012

Dr. Ann Marie Mulready

The Connecticut State Board of Education convened a special meeting to approve plans for the four turnaround schools in the Commissioner’s Network—Curiale School in Bridgeport, the Academy at Milner School in Hartford, High School in the Community in New Haven, and the John Stanton School in Norwalk.

Public Participation

  • Mary Galucci, a parent of children in the Windham School system, questioned the funding of the inter-district magnet school, while other schools in the system experience significant deterioration of the buildings. She related her attempts to express her concerns to Steven Adamoski, the current Special Master, without response.
  • Wm Morrison, a teacher, questioned the use of CMT/CAPT data for comparing cohort achievement and evaluating teachers, noting that it violated sound statistical principles. In addition, he questioned the costs with respect to time and money.
  • Tim Nolan, the chair of the Region 19 reapportionment committee and a member of Board of Education, reported on the process for adjusting the weighted scoring to determine Board representation for the towns of Mansfield, Willington, Ashford. The current system for adjusting Board representation was successful and that representation was adjusted to reflect the growing Mansfield population.

Consent Agenda

The consent agenda was accepted and approved.

Commissioner’s Report

Commissioner Stefan Pryor reported on the general process for creating turnaround plans. Each school completed audits, determined needs, created a Turnaround Committee that included school personnel, a member of the school governance committee, a member of the Board of Education, and the superintendent. Each school is in a high priority district and performed in the lowest 10% of CMT or CAPT measures. These four schools are the first of 25 to be authorized over the next three years. Each school commits to three years of participation, with the aim of creating sustainable change within those years.

Curiale School.

Dr. Sandy Kase, Chief Administrative Officer for the Bridgeport Public Schools presented the Curiale turnaround plan. The plan includes:

  • An extended school day created through flexible scheduling and staggered staffing. This plan adds 88 minutes per day, resulting in an additional week in the school year.
  • Extended time for core literacy and mathematics instruction.
  • Partnerships with nearby community services to provide medical, dental, and psychological services.
  • New core curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards
  • Alignment of the after school, Lighthouse program, with student needs
  • Increased instructional services for struggling students in literacy and mathematics
  • Adoption of the UConn Gifted and Talented, School Wide, Enrichment Model
  • Structured opportunities for parent engagement
  • Extensive professional development and increased instructional resources
  • An emphasis on early childhood
  • A partnership with the Bridgeport police to provide safe corridors for children going to and from schools
  • The retention of teachers rated proficient and the filling of vacancies with teachers rated as excellent

In response to questions by the Board, Dr. Kase reported that a new principal and assistant principal had been appointed, and teacher evaluations were being aligned with the new state evaluation system, Also, once impending changes were defined, most teachers have chosen to remain in the turnaround school and approximately ⅓ of the staff are teachers of color. Dr. Kase also explained that in the past the school had been hampered by poor decision making related to budgeting and that the funding provided by the State Board would help underwrite the plan while working toward sustainable change.

Milner Academy.

Kelvin Rodan, Chief of Instutional Advancement Officer, and Dr. Michael Sharp, CFO of the Jamoke Charter Management Organization, presented the plan for the Milner Academy. Jamoke, a charter group, is working with Milner to achieve the turnaround. The highlights of the proposal include,

  • Strong family and community connections
  • Effective leadership and faculty
  • Effective use of curriculum and instruction
  • Effective use of time
  • Effective use of data to inform instruction and the use of benchmarks to measure progress
  • A decrease in the staffing ratio of adults to children from 12::1 to 8::1 through academic assistants
  • A teacher development plan
  • The overall establishment of a teacher driven school in collaboration with parents and the community
  • An extended day of ½ hour for the first year and another 25 minutes in the second year, along with 12 Saturday academies, resulting in 34 extra days of instruction by the second year.

The Commissioner informed the Board that changes were required in the plan, though the changes will be established in a Memo of Understanding, between the Jamoke organization and the Hartford Public schools and subject to the Commissioner’s approval. In particular revisions may be necessary for the 2013/2014, especially with respect to a collaborative method for assembling a quality faculty, staffing quality and stability, the establishment of a three year commitment by faculty, and the method for training of faculty.

In response to Board questions, the relationship between Milner and the Jamoke organization was explained as a partnership with Milner remaining as a Hartford public school. Sandra Ward, Director of Community Schools, explained that the after school program is supported by Catholic Charities and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. With respect to students with special needs, including English Language Learners, the staff serving those populations will be doubled.

With respect to benchmarks, specific SPI benchmarks will be detailed in the Memo of Understanding. The Jamoke organization will be expected to show the same rates of academic growth. Four per cent growth is expected and the goal is to outpace the state. In terms of safety, significant dollars will be invested in the physical aspects of the building, including alarms at entrances and exits, and climate control improvements for heat and cold.

Lastly, the Board questioned the replicability of the model, in particular the reduction of class size and the closing of enrollment on October 1st. Charles Jaskiewicz recommended to Chairman Taylor that language to address the variations that may occur in the population be added to the memo of understanding. A description of the responsibilities of academic assistants was requested by Chairman Taylor and Dr. Sharpe responded that they are are not paraprofessionals. They will have at least two years of college and may assist the teacher with small group instruction to provide differentiation and modeling of school expectations.

The Milner plan was approved unanimously.

High School in the Community (HSC).

The plan for the High School in the Community in New Haven, which has long been a teacher run school, will partner with the New Haven Federation of Teachers (NHFT) to take it to the next level. The plan was presented by Garth Harries, Assistant Superintendent and Dave Low, VP of NHFT. A key component in New Haven school reform has been portfolio development in school turnaround efforts. Two additional components of the effort have been to take aggressive action in the areas where a student needs it most and to emphasize to all stakeholders that it is the school unit that matters in achievement. Other highlights of the HSC turnaround include:

  • The development of teacher leadership and professional community
  • Shifting the academic focus to a competency based instructional model and determining what true personalized learning looks like
  • Developing a deep sense of community with students and parents

With respect to teacher leadership and teacher excellence, members of the staff have attended the National Association for Academic and Teaching Excellence. All teachers must reapply to the school, ⅔ of the staff will be rehired, and the remaining ⅓ will be new. (This is substantially completed.). In order to shift the academic focus, extra time will be added to the day, resulting 11 extra days in the calendar. In addition there is work aimed at developing professional collaborative time and the school is a member of the League of Innovative Schools, a group of schools transitioning to a mastery based (vs. time spent) model.

Mastery based learning begins with emphasis on core skills and the student report card will identify performance as Mastery, Exemplary Mastery and Not Yet Mastered. Instead of a four year model, the attainment of skills will be individually managed and at the end of a module students will defend their learning. Once they can defend the learning, credit is assigned and they move on to the next module. The final phase is a capstone project that may include mentoring by outside mentors. Graduation is dependent on completion of the curriculum, not the time spent, and the student may graduate whenever the requirements have been met.

A family outreach specialist and a health professional will be hired to increase community and family involvement and to support the physical and mental health of the students.

The motion to approve the plan was approved.

John Stanton School.

The plan for the Stanton school was presented by Abby Dolliver, superintendent of the Norwich Public Schools, and Tom St George, a middle school social studies teacher.

Turnaround support from the state will help with the search for talented staff already in progress. In addition, support for the classroom teacher will be provided by the presence of two other adults in each classroom in an effort to provide more individualized attention, since the size of the building limits the ability to reduce class size substantially. Administrative support will also be provided through the addition of 092 certified personnel.

Instructional time will be increased by 300 hours in 3 years, beginning with an additional hour in the school day this year. In September and October, the extra hour will be used for extensive professional development and the students will have additional instructional time beginning in November.

A summer program will offer differentiated intervention and an accelerated academy for students. New Family liaison positions will be added to meet the needs of non English speaking families. More deliberate partnerships with community child and family agencies, including the after school program, will be established to meet student and family social and emotional needs.

The process for developing this plan was not limited to Stanton School stakeholders, but all district faculties were invited to meetings, including the CEA representative, to contribute to the brain storming process.

In response to questions, Dolliver noted that 50% of the staff has changed and that Teaching Residents will serve to support the teachers on a rotating basis. The Resident may not be a certified teacher, but will be a part of the bargaining unit.

The motion to approve the John Stanton turnaround plan was passed.

Theresa Hopkins-Staten noted that there were common themes in all the plans–leadership, safety, and cultural competency. She asked the Commissioner whether or not the State Department of Education was working to address these issues across all these schools. Commissioner noted that the turnaround process was structured around seven categories. Based on these categories there will be ways to address the recurring themes and Michelle Rosato and Charlene Russell-Tucker are leading staff to address those.

Other Business

In other business, the Board approved the permanent appointment of Diane Ullman as the Chief Talent Officer.

Paul Vallas and Bob Trefry, Interim Superintendent and Board Chair, respectively, reported on the status of the Bridgeport Schools, currently operating with state oversight.

The process of change in the Bridgeport district began with assessing the needs of the district, as perceived by all the stakeholders in the district. Three specific goals were established to be accomplished within the year of oversight.

  • Close the budget deficit and establish a financial plan to provide stability
  • Establish a long term school improvement and close the achievement gap
  • Build the human infrastructure

Through city support, the forgivable loan, outside agencies in kind services, and budget cuts, the deficit was closed without significant staff losses–only 9 teachers lost jobs. The size of the central office was reduced by a third. A comprehensive PK-12 school instructional audit resulted in a strongly aligned PK-12 curriculum and investments have been made in books and materials.

The Board and the Commissioner praised the progress and the meeting was adjourned.