Superintendents have a vision for Connecticut’s public schools

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The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) is advancing its 2016 Public Policy Agenda for purposes of fostering equity, excellence and innovation in Connecticut’s public schools in alignment with a vision that articulates a schooling that is personalized so that all children learn what they need to know and be able to do.

Equity

Every child in Connecticut has a moral and legal right to an effective educational program. The most important state policy decisions that affect recognition of this right are ones that determine funding levels for educational programs, which guarantee the provision of special services to children who have special needs and which provide for high quality pre-kindergarten educational experiences for all children in Connecticut.

CAPSS, therefore, is recommending the following.

  • That the 2.5 percent spending cap on municipal budgets be repealed.
  • That the funding cap on the Special Education Excess Cost Grant be removed and that the State redefine excess cost to be three times a district’s per pupil expenditure.
  • That the burden of proof in special education due process be assigned to the party that brings the matter to due process.
  • That the number of children enrolled in pre-school programs in Connecticut increase every year until every 3- and 4-year-old child is enrolled in a high quality educational program.
Excellence

The opportunity for every child to excel cannot be established unless every child is given the amount of time that they need to learn, every child is taught in a way that aligns well with how they learn and unless every child’s program is based as much as possible on their interests so that learning becomes something that children own instead of something that is done to them.

In addition, children will not achieve excellence without the services of excellent teachers and administrators who are held accountable for growth in student learning in an accurate, fair and responsible manner that has as its primary focus the improvement of instruction.

CAPSS, therefore, is making the following recommendations.

  • Revise state statutes to allow students to progress based on demonstration of competencies as opposed to attending school for six hours a day, 180 days a year for 13 years.
  • Enact state statutes that promote multiple pathways for learning such as workplace internships, independent study, early college enrollment and/or project based experiences outside of school and that ensure equal opportunity for students to access such paths.
  • Enact state statutes that establish a schedule of state tests whereby the tests would be offered four times each school year so that students could access the tests at the time during the school year when their teachers decide they are ready to take the tests.
  • Strengthen state statutes that allow school districts to grant high school diplomas based on student demonstrations of competencies instead of seat time by authorizing multiple assessment pathways that can be accessed by students when teachers deem them ready.
  • Revise state statutes to reflect a three to six year high graduation time frame for calculating graduation rates and to include as graduates students who successfully complete their high school education in adult education programs and students who receive a passing grade on the GED exam.
Innovation

The best source for improvement in instruction is the reflection that highly competent teachers and administrators apply to what they do on a regular basis. This reflection is the primary foundation for all innovation which is in turn the primary basis for a system that is continually improving itself.

Public policies, therefore, have to remove the shackles imposed from outside the system to free up those inside the system to put in place the innovations that will benefit children.

CAPSS, therefore, is making the following recommendations.

  • Require all branches of the state government to undertake a comprehensive study of the mandate structure that has been imposed on local school districts with a view towards identifying and eliminating any mandates that are significant hindrances to the efforts of local districts to improve and transform themselves.
  • Require the state government to refrain from imposing any additional mandates upon local school districts until the present mandate structure has been studied and reformed.

CAPSS looks forward to working with other advocates for Connecticut public education and with state policy makers in pursuit of this agenda.

Joseph J. Cirasuolo, Ed.D., is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

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