Four schools selected for likely state intervention

The State Department of Education is looking to intervene in the next school year in four low-performing schools, one each in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and Norwich.

When announcing the four schools, the state department of education detailed preliminary plans that aim to dramatically improve student results. Each school district’s initial plan will be fine-tuned over the next two months by a local panel made up of teachers, parents, school board memberes and the state commissioner. Each district has its own strategy.

In Bridgeport, plans for James J. Curiale Elementary School will involve smaller class sizes, more instructional time and a curriculum overhaul. The city officials’ expression of interest in state involvement reports that the local school board and teacher’s union both support the plan.

In Hartford, Thirman L. Milner School will explore partnering with a local charter school that will help to manage the elementary school. The application states they have received local school board support, but not from the union as of June 1.

In New Haven, High School in the Community teachers will lead the plans to extend learning time and team planning and development time by an hour each day. The district’s application for state involvement says the local board and union leaders support this. Coincidentally, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor student taught there.

In Norwich, the John B. Stanton Elementary School is looking to build stronger home-to-school collaboration. The school board and union support section on its application has been left blank.

Pryor said during an interview that the four models being considered “represent a variety” so schools have the flexibility to improve where they see fit.

“We are asking each of these districts to reach beyond the surface in order to take the dramatic steps necessary to turn these schools around,” he said.

Collectively, these schools have more than 1,700 students and have been targeted because of chronic low-performance on state standardized tests and low graduation rates for high schools.

When designated a Network School, a teacher union’s ability to bargain can be significantly restricted if the commissioner and members of the local turnaround committee fail to agree on a plan. Instead, a new state law says a single arbitrator will “give the highest priority to the educational interests” when settling a dispute of what to include in a school’s turnaround plan.

Legislators have allocated $7.5 million to the state education department for new reforms at the four schools for the coming school year. Pryor said many of the initiatives will not be simple, one-time costs, but will involve state commitment for the next three years.

“The expectation is that the state will work on a transition plan so that these initiatives can continue… What the source of that funding at this point is unknown,” he said Friday.

Pryor has the authority to intervene in up to 25 schools over the next three years, and he said he intends to seek additional funds from the state legislature for the remaining school interventions in the following two years. Getting more state oversight and involvement in the worst-off schools was a major education initiatives pushed for by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this past legislative session.

Schools also considered for state intervention include Briggs High School in Norwalk and Crosby High School in Waterbury.

Final plans for the four schools selected must be submitted to the commissioner by the end of the summer for approval.