Proposed Safe and Compassionate Learning Environments Initiative

Comprehensive programs addressing students with trauma and enhancing Social-Emotional Learning support

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Proposal Testimony

Kindergarten Start Age: Require children attending kindergarten to be at least 5 years old by Sept. 1, unless a parent or guardian of a child under such age attests to their child’s developmental readiness (note: CT law sets the youngest kindergarten start age of any of the other 49 states).

Universal Preschool: Require SDE and OEC to develop plan for universal preschool and report its finding and recommendations for implementation to the legislature.

Acceptable Counselor, Social Worker, School Psychologist, and Paraprofessional Staff Ratios: Ensure that the ratios of social workers, school psychologists, and school counselors meet national standards. For social workers and school counselors, the student to teacher standard is 250:1; for school psychologists, it’s 500-700:1. Also implement nationally recognized paraprofessional staffing ratios.

Reducing Testing:

    1. Prohibit standardized tests from Pre-Kindergarten through second grade (as done in New Jersey).
    2. Limit the amount of classroom time required to be used for statewide assessments to be less than 1% of the required annual instructional hours for each grade (as done in New York).
    3. Limit the amount time devoted to test preparation under standardized testing conditions to a total of 2% of the instructional time for each grade (as done in New York).

Class Size Reduction in Alliance Districts: Provide additional ECS funds to Alliance Districts that maintain class sizes at or below the state average for similar classrooms.

Special Education Caseload: Propose a comprehensive study be conducted by the Special Education Advisory Council (with input from parents, educators, board members, and advocacy groups) that results in caseload limits for school districts. Limits should take into consideration intensities of various services, the amount of time students’ IEP indicate as classroom inclusionary time, and other key factors.

Social Emotional Learning and Revising the Common Core for Grades K-2:

  1. Require the state to revise the common core standards for the early grades and incorporate strategies to promote social-emotional learning.
  2. Require standards for Social-Emotional Learning be incorporated into the grade 3 – grade 12 curricula.
  3. Report on the potential inclusion of Social-Emotional Learning and School Climate Indicators in the state’s school accountability framework under ESSA.

Addressing Trauma for Students Who Exhibit Need: Require schools to have plans for helping students whose behavior indicates deeper needs. Plans must:

  1. Identify a suitable location where student who has been temporarily removed from class for dangerous behavior so that educational needs can be met.
  2. Implement interventions to address underlying trauma, such as therapeutic support; restorative practices with training; trauma-informed instruction; and strategies to improve the school climate, etc.
  3. Ensure teacher input into the supports and interventions necessary to support affected students and protect teachers who advocate for their students from workplace retaliation – an all too familiar form of silencing teachers.

Expertise on School Climate Committees: Ensure that climate committees include paraprofessionals, mental health or health experts, and the perspectives and information available from teachers’ unions.

Model SEL Curricula: Create model social-emotional learning curricular units to help districts integrate strategies into their entire curriculum at a low-cost.

SEL Pilot – Flexibility in Teachers Evaluation Law and Guidelines: Permit more flexibility in teacher evaluation plans to allow for social-emotional learning indicators by permitting special waivers from the state educator evaluation guidelines.

Comprehensive Community School Pilot Program: Establish pilot program to develop comprehensive community schools that involve parents, educators, and the community in developing solutions to a school’s biggest challenges, with a focus on addressing social and emotional learning, and student trauma.

Education Funding: Establish special fund to hold revenues from a dedicated source in order to fund programs in this bill.