Community schools, minority teacher recruitment and retention, the opportunity gap, and school literacy were just some of the issues members of the legislature’s Education Committee heard public input on today.
CEA members, leaders, and staff testified on a number of bills, ensuring teachers’ perspective was heard.
“Today I am sharing with you a vision of a comprehensive, transformative community school that is envisioned in this bill,” said CEA Director of Policy, Research, and Government Relations Ray Rossomando, referring to SB 1021 An Act Concerning A Comprehensive Community Schools Pilot Program.
“The model outlined in this bill creates an empowering environment for parents and community partners to transform schools serving our neediest students,” he added. “Together with educators, stakeholders determine the unique needs of students in their school and identify the community resources available to meet those needs.”
Rossomando said that the Bridgeport Education Association (BEA) is leading a community schools effort by reaching out to families in the Harding High School community, including its feeder elementary and middle schools. CEA, along with support from the National Education Association, has been working with the BEA to fund the Bridgeport Educational Alliance for Public Schools to initiate community school strategies in Bridgeport. The Alliance has been working with parents, educators, and local organizations to identify challenges facing students and creating coalitions to address them.
“With this community school project we’re really grateful for the teachers who have taken initiative,” said Bridgeport Educational Alliance for Public Schools Community Organizer Shamare Holmes. “We’ve been working together to make sure that our students, our parents, and our teachers are of one accord, and that they’re ready and willing to take our city back.”
“The 1,500 members of BEA strongly support this initiative and SB 1021,” said BEA President Gary Peluchette.
Peluchette remembered his own elementary school years when schools were the focus of the community, and the town supported athletic events, student performances, and other activities.
“Somewhere along the way, this notion of the community being an integral part of our schools has been lost. We have been looking at data, and not at children,” Peluchette said.
“Using the community schools model allows not only teachers like myself, but also students and parents to really become welcome members in decision making and policy on a school level,” said Harding High School library media specialist Laina Kominos.
Minority Teacher Recruitment and Retention
CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas told Education Committee members that CEA supports SB 1022 and HB 7149 that promote innovative approaches to the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in Connecticut.
“CEA is excited about the opportunity to share the work it has been doing on this goal and to engage in the development of additional innovative strategies,” he said.
“These bills are positive steps toward making our public schools a place where all students, regardless of cultural background, feel welcomed, can focus on learning, and are valued as important contributors to our country’s future,” said CEA Research and Policy Development Specialist Orlando Rodriguez.
“SB 1018 proposes to penalize districts with lower funding if they do not make enough improvement in reading and reducing absenteeism,” said CEA Teacher Development Specialist Kate Field. “This proposal assumes that the educational achievement of students will improve if school districts are punished. SB 1018 would punish both students and teachers for factors that negatively affect educational achievement and are beyond the control of both students and their teachers.”
Field continued, “Instead of punishing school districts for their underlying socioeconomic problems, lets improve the educational achievement of students by neutralizing the negative social conditions that lead to low educational outcomes.”
Field said that CEA agrees with provisions of SB 1019 that raise the cutoff for intensive reading instruction from grade 3 to grade 5; however, there are other parts of the bill that are concerning. One provision in the bill would retain third graders who do not pass a state reading test.
“Overall, the third grade retention proposal is outdated, draconian, and significantly problematic on many scientific, developmental, and instructional fronts,” said Field. “Research has shown that an alternative is earlier identification and intervention. Furthermore, there is a disproportionately high rate of high school dropouts among retained students, who are more likely to come from low-income, minority households.”
She added, “CEA believes that deferring to locally based retention policies is the best option and that relying solely on passing a test is too restrictive and does not take into account real-world considerations that cannot be overcome simply by spending another year in third grade.”