The General Assembly’s Education Committee likely finished up its work for this legislative session and approved a final flurry of bills prior to its April 6, 2021 deadline for approving and advancing bills out of committee. Here is a summary of the bills approved by the Education Committee (which now await action by the full General Assembly).
“TUITIONING OUT” ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
S.B. No. 1036 (“An Act Authorizing Boards Of Education To Pay Tuition To Another Board Of Education For The Purpose Of Enrolling Its Elementary School Students In Such Other School District”) would allow a local board of education to pay tuition to another school district for sending its elementary and middle school students to that other school district (in lieu of the sending board operating its own schools for the grade levels involved). Currently, a local board of education that does not maintain a high school has that authority with respect to high school students.
EMERGENCY ACTION PLANS FOR INTERSCHOLASTIC AND INTRAMURAL ATHLETIC EVENTS
H.B. No. 6534 (“An Act Concerning Emergency Action Plans For Interscholastic and Intramural Athletic Events”) would require each local or regional school district and private school to create (commencing in the 2022-2023 school year) an emergency action plan for responding to serious and life-threatening sports-related injuries that occur during interscholastic or intramural athletic events. Each plan must include, among other things, a listing of the staff responsible for implementing the plan and the procedures to follow when a student sustains a serious sports-related injury (or suffers a cardiac or respiratory emergency). The plan would have to be distributed, posted, reviewed annually, updated as necessary, and rehearsed annually by the staff responsible for implementation.
MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND DIVERSITY
S.B. No. 1034 (“An Act Concerning Minority Teacher Recruitment And Retention”), would require the State Department of Education to 1) establish a “minority candidate certification, retention or residency year” program, 2) develop a plan to assist school districts in promoting the teaching profession as a career option to students in high school, and 3) develop and require school district personnel responsible for hiring educators to complete a video training module relating to implicit bias and anti-bias in the hiring process (and also include such training as part of the teacher in-service program). The bill would require alliance school districts to partner with the operator of such a residency program for purposes of enrolling minority candidates and placing them in such districts as part of the program; after the successful completion of the program by the candidate, the district may hire such a candidate. Ten percent of any increases in alliance school district funding would be allotted to such minority recruitment and residency programs.
H.B. No. 6620 (“An Act Concerning The Right To Read And Addressing Opportunity Gaps And Equity In Public Schools”), would require (commencing July 1, 2023) local and regional school districts to implement a reading curriculum model or program for Grades Pre-kindergarten through Five that has been approved by the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success. The Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success, which is to be established by the State Department of Education, shall approve at least five reading curriculum models or programs to be implemented by districts; such models or programs shall be 1) evidenced and scientifically-based, and 2) focused on competency in the five areas of reading (Phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and reading fluency, including oral skills and reading comprehension). The bill would require districts to notify the State of the model or program that they have selected and allows for waivers from the State. The bill provides that the State Education and Resource Center would provide technical assistance to school districts for professional development and in-service training related to the teaching of black and Latino studies courses.
CURRICULUM AND GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
S.B. No. 1033 (“An Act Concerning The Inclusion Of Computer Science And Financial Literacy As Part Of The High School Graduation Requirements”), would, as its title suggests, mandate that the nine credit “STEM” graduation requirement include computer science and at least one credit in “financial literacy.”
H.B. No. 6619 (“An Act Concerning The Development Of A Kindergarten To Eight Grade Model Curriculum”), would require the State Department of Education (in collaboration with the State Education Resource Center) by January 1, 2023 to develop a model curriculum for Grades Kindergarten through Eight that may be used by local and regional boards of education.
VIRTUAL LEARNING AND PANDEMIC RELATED ISSUES
S.B. No. 977 (“An Act Concerning Virtual Learning”) would require the State Department of Education to develop uniform standards for the provision of virtual learning in public schools (including use of virtual learning on days of inclement weather). The bill would also require the Department to conduct a comprehensive audit of the virtual learning programs provided by school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic and to develop guidelines for training educators in the provision of virtual learning through in-service training and professional development programs. The bill provides that virtual learning would count towards annual school session and hour of instruction requirements for school districts.
H.B. No. 6556 (“An Act Addressing Issues Created By The COVID-19 Pandemic On Public Education In Connecticut”), which was then referred to the Appropriations Committee and would need further action by it before further consideration during this legislative session, would require the State Department of Education to collect and evaluate student performance data on the state-wide mastery examination for the purpose of identifying and measuring the existence and severity of learning loss and student disengagement in public schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department would then develop learning loss and student disengagement mitigation strategies for use by school districts (including but not limited to in-school interventions and opportunities for small group instruction, tutoring services for individual or small groups of students, expanded afterschool and summer academic instruction and enrichment programs, and community-based learning pods). In addition, the bill provides that the Department shall provide resources and technical assistance to school districts to extend the school day or school year for the purpose of increasing student learning time and addressing the immediate academic needs of students who have experienced learning loss. The bill would require alliance school districts to offer summer learning programs following the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years in order to mitigate the effects of student learning loss. The Department would establish a grant program to support such programs. The bill provides that for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, substitute teachers would only be required to hold 1) at least an associate degree if such person will be in the same assignment for more than ten school days, or 2) a high school diploma or its equivalent if such person will be in the same assignment for ten or fewer school days.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING
H.B. No. 6557 (“An Act Concerning Social And Emotional Learning”), which was then referred to the Appropriations Committee and would need further action by it before any further consideration during this session, would require each local and regional board of education to administer a universal mental health and resiliency screening to all students for the purpose of identifying students in need of interventions and support, with such screening provided over the next two school years to include a stress and trauma assessment related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would also require school districts (within available appropriations) to maintain the following staffing ratios for mental health and social-emotional support staff: 1) At least one school counselor, social worker, and family therapist for every 250 students in the district, 2) at least one school psychologist for every 500 students in the district, and 3) a paraeducator to student ratio recommended by a “nationally recognized organization with expertise in paraeducator effectiveness.” The bill would require each school district to develop and implement a comprehensive school counseling program, in accordance with state guidelines and provide “proactive social-emotional instruction to develop student competencies in self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making skills.”
The bill would require the State Department of Education to establish a state-wide social-emotional support program that provides support and assistance to school districts for mental health, social-emotional, behavioral support, trauma support and special education programs and services. The bill would also require the Department to develop student social-emotional learning standards for Grades Four through Twelve. Additionally, the bill would require the Social Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative to convene a working group to review and make recommendations regarding the state bullying/school climates statutes and the inclusion of restorative practices in safe school climate plans, along with providing technical assistance and support to school districts in adopting and implementing the Connecticut Model School Climate Policy.
The bill would require that mandatory memoranda of understanding for school districts with school resource officer (“SRO”) programs include a provision that requires SROs to complete the same social-emotional learning and restorative practices training provided to the teachers and administrators of the school. The bill would additionally require that the principles and practices of social-emotional learning and restorative practices be integrated throughout the components of teacher professional development plans and programs; the statement of educational goals of school districts would need to include goals for such integration of principles and practices of social-emotional learning and restorative practices.
H.B. No. 6399 (“An Act Concerning The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey”) would require the Department of Public Health to administer the Connecticut School Health Survey to students in Grades Nine through Twelve, provided that the Department receives funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) for such purpose. The survey shall be based on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey developed by the CDC and administered to students in those high schools randomly selected by the CDC. The Department would provide guidelines (including on matters of student privacy and parental consent) for districts regarding the administration of the survey.
Stay tuned for more.