Connecticut State Department of Education Initiatives

Kristina Elias and Joseph Gambini
CDSE Reading/Language Consultants

The State Department of Educations has had a number of new initiatives this year. In September, the Third Generation of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) was given for the first time. Teachers have been grateful to receive information about how well their students are doing in the areas of initial understanding, interpretation and critical stance. This whole new area of feedback from the state has encouraged schools to tinker with curriculum in the classrooms so that student needs are more pointedly met. All schools received a wide range of information about their students as a result of the new test feedback forms. And parents are especially pleased to understand where their children fall in the relationship to average schoo, district, and state scores.

One of the most important documents to come out of the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction, The Connecticut Blueprint for Reading Achievement, was printed in October of 2000 and distributed to all K-3 teachers and support services such as Reading Specialists, Speech and Language Specialists and Special Educators. The Early Reading Success Blueprint panel, a thirty-one member group with representation from the legislatures, universities, the public schools and professional reading organizations, crafted the legislated blueprint to guide the teaching of reading in all K-3 classes in Connecticut. Both federal and state funds were provided in the 2000-2001 school year to help priority schools to begin to bring the goals of the report to fruition. The federally-funded Haskins Project created demonstration sites in eight Connecticut elementary schools, and preliminary results of student evaluations and qualitative data indicate that they certainly have succeeded. Likewise, the state-funded RESC institutes have provided professional training and on-site technical help to eighty-eight Connecticut schools. The Legislature will be examining ways to help more schools make necessary changes in classroom activities so that all K-3 students in the State of Connecticut succeed in reading.

This summer, RESCs also will be offering staff development opportunities that focus on exploring and making the practices endorsed by the Early Reading Success Blueprint classroom-friendly.

Finally, by the time you read this, Generation 2 of the CAPT will have been administered. The major change within the new generation is in reading and writing across the disciplines. We believe that this focus will place emphasis on reading and writing in all content areas, acknowledging that literacy is the responsibility of all educators. The new section that addresses this, Reading for Information, is similar to the CMP Reading Comprehension task. This section addresses a student’s ability to read and construct meaning from non-fiction. Selections are drawn from authentic sources that a student may encounter outside of a classroom experience. These articles are taken from the social sciences, the sciences, the arts, math, and current events. Fiction is not among the readings.

The curriculum consultants of the State Department have offered and will continue to offer training to help all teachers (K-12) realize and understand their role in the development of independent readers, writers, and thinkers.