Education reform: CT clarifies plan before sending it to the feds

CtMirror.org file photo

Students step off a school bus in Norwich

After receiving an unfavorable assessment last month, Connecticut decided to make revisions to its comprehensive school accountability plan before resubmitting it to the U.S. Department of Education for final approval.

The state is required to devise a school accountability plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced No Child Left Behind as the national standard for school accountability.

Federal officials said the first version of Connecticut’s plan was incomplete and that, among other things, its method of grading schools lacked transparency about the percentage of students performing at grade level.

The state’s approach would factor student growth — how much a student’s test scores improved from one year to the next — into its system for measuring school performance.

The federal department also claimed the plan would be insufficient in measuring achievement gaps.

The federal reviewers concluded the state’s plan did not meet the requirements of the federal law, writing that, “CT must base the academic indicator on grade-level proficiency on state assessments.”

These disputes left the state with the choice of defending or revising the existing plan. It chose to do a combination of both.

State officials say they have made small changes to accommodate some of the concerns, but put even more effort into clarifying components of their plan in discussions with federal officials.

Ellen Cohn, the state’s deputy education commissioner, said state officials were concerned about working with the federal education department at first, but “found the process to be incredibly collaborative.”

“I have every reason to hope, certainly from the tenor of the phone call, that we’re going to be OK,” Cohn said. “That’s very different from how we perceived it at the beginning.”

The state is expecting a response from the federal department on or before Aug. 19.

The final draft of the plan included four small modifications, all to the plan’s Title I provisions, which address accountability systems. The modifications tweak a pair of definitions, adds an achievement index to the state’s long-term goals and excludes former students with disabilities from achievement calculations.

State officials also provided clarification to the plan’s Title II, Title IV and Title VII provisions, which eased concerns about measurements related to high-quality teachers, student supports and homeless students.

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