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Public Policy Agenda 2022

CAPSS BLUEPRINT TO TRANSFORM CONNECTICUT’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS

To ensure that every child receives high-quality teaching and learning to which they are entitled, CAPSS has developed a comprehensive and equitable strategic proposal for funding and improving public education in Connecticut.

Released in early 2021, the CAPSS Blueprint to Transform Connecticut’s Public Schools addresses the highest priority needs through the combined efforts of state funding, legislation, and local and state action. The updated Blueprint prioritizes the Blueprint’s recommendations and continues its focus primarily on allocating greater and more equitable resources for public schools while expecting stronger student success.

Recommendation(s):

  1. The General Assembly and Governor should continue to refine the ECS formula to focus funds on the neediest districts, recognizing their education challenges and the local capacity to pay. The size of the pie and the State’s share must grow every year with a more substantial long-term commitment. No town should lose funds from the 2020-21 base year; there should never be mid-year rescissions.
  2. The State must also address the growing need to fund the recommended categorical grant programs and amend legislation as follows:

2022
a. Fully fund the Special Education excess cost grant; (See Rec. 4)
b. Provide more resources to support English Language Learner (ELL)programs; (See Rec. 7)
c. Begin implementation of universal Pre-K in districts with the greatest need; (See Rec. 8)
d. Expand and improve regional services being provided by the six RESCs; (See Rec. 23)

REMOTE & VIRTUAL LEARNING

Connecticut strives to address the multi-faceted learning needs of all students. Using synchronous and asynchronous approaches, both remote and virtual learning can expand the repertoire of programs and processes to enhance the personalization efforts already underway in the State.

Remote Learning

Access to Remote learning may benefit students and districts throughout the year to address emergency closures that would otherwise result in adding days to the end of the year when high temperatures have impacted learning and resulted in early releases. We support this as an option for the LEA.

Virtual Learning

Districts can expand course offerings and reduce the impact of teacher shortages by developing and offering virtual learning opportunities for students. Virtual learning would allow students to take classes their schools can’t provide and learn in a learning platform they will encounter in college/work. In addition, it will attract educators who need more flexible schedules and help address the teaching shortages in some areas.

Recommendation(s):

  1. The State, along with education practitioners, should develop remote and virtual learning standards.
  2. The State should provide local boards of education discretionary power to utilize remote learning days for emergency closures.
  3. The State should develop a regional concept for a model that includes virtual and in-person learning that opens learning to the same content areas for all students.

TEACHER EVALUATION

For nearly a decade, educators in Connecticut have been subjected to a cumbersome and process-laden evaluation system. The current system has had NO significant impact on student or teacher success and does not focus on coaching and other supports to improve instruction. It is essential that the current evaluation system change to improve the quality of work while encouraging innovation from the practitioners.

Recommendation(s):

  1. Eliminate the current educator evaluation system.
  2. Provide opportunities for districts to develop innovative and creative evaluation systems that reflect new and effective instructional methodologies. This new system should be based on the Common Core of Teaching and be supported by practitioners serving as coaches.

BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND SUPERINTENDENTS

Boards of education and superintendents who effectively work together require a level of stability and competence to achieve their desired goals and improve outcomes for students. Boards of Education  receive their authority from the State and therefore hold a unique position within a municipality.

Training

As recent Board meetings have reminded us, board members must know the board’s role and have the skills necessary to address complex issues boards face. Many boards face a shortage of candidates who are both willing and able to address complex issues in public. Board members must be confident in the scope of their role, the issues facing them, and effective management of board meetings. Being a board member is a critical position. Training will give board members practice, insight, and confidence in their role like any critical position.  This training may help overcome the shortage of candidates some boards face, develop a more robust pipeline of interested candidates, and better prepare them for their public role and the governance work they will do.
Stability

Because of the nature and timing of Board of Education elections, it is imperative that the superintendent be a consistent member of the team who transcends elected leadership changes and provides stability to the school district. It is challenging to maintain stable leadership when a local board of education is prohibited by law from contracting with a superintendent of schools for more than three years.  All the research on institutional change indicates that it takes at least five years to bring about sustainable systemic change.

When there is no expectation that the person responsible for leading the change will be there for more than  three years, the change process is compromised. By increasing leadership stability, both boards and superintendents have a greater opportunity to establish a better relationship, realize a more welcoming atmosphere and culture, and attract more diverse superintendent candidates in the future.

Recommendation(s):

  1. State legislation to require the Department of Education, in consultation with its Regional Educational Service Centers (RESCs), Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), to set and publish standards for board training, and to develop a model board training program. Districts shall provide 5 hours of mandated training for the new board of education members. Such training will include a comprehensive curriculum that provides board members and chair training on topics such as roles and responsibilities, policymaking, public participation, leading effective meetings, Freedom of Information Act requirements, the role of the school board, how to work with other boards,  and how to work collaboratively with the superintendent to achieve the school district’s goals. The legislature shall fund the cost of developing and implementing this model program for the first several years. The provider for such training shall be selected by the superintendent and board chair and may include but not be limited to RESCs, CABE, CAPSS, Board Legal Counsel.
  2. Revise the statutory limit on superintendents’ contracts to allow local boards of education the option of offering superintendents five-year contracts.