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Nine School Districts Ask To Start Turnaround Plans Early


June 15, 2012

Nine Connecticut school systems have expressed interest in joining the $7.5 million Commissioner's Network, tentatively offering to implement turnaround plans for their lowest-performing schools in the coming months, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Friday.

The districts in contact with the state are Hartford, Bridgeport, Danbury, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich and Waterbury, said Pryor, who declined to name any specific schools under consideration.

The application process is ongoing, and Pryor said the state will extend a preliminary round of invitations in the next two weeks. By mid-July, he said, a few districts will be asked to work on turnaround plans that must be approved by the state and implemented in time for the first day of school.

State education department spokesman Jim Polites said discussions with the nine school districts include the possibility that some of them would begin the aggressive reform work in 2013-14 instead of next school year.

Pryor estimated that only "a small number" would be chosen for the first group of 2012-13 network schools and anticipated that some of the initial volunteers would withdraw on their own.

"It's admittedly challenging... The ramp-up is so rapid. It's very understandable that most districts, whether they've expressed interest or not at this point," will want a year to plan, Pryor said.

Connecticut's new education reform package calls for state intervention in about 25 struggling schools that will be picked for the Commissioner's Network over the next three years. No more than two schools can be chosen from one district in a single year, according to the bill, and the selected schools must commit to at least three years of intensive "turnaround" strategies.

In Hartford, for example, school officials are pushing for the Jumoke Academy charter organization to essentially run the Milner Core Knowledge Academy, a prekindergarten to grade 8 school that remains mired in poor test scores after a 2008 district redesign. Most students do not meet basic proficiency in reading.

Hartford administrators have scrambled to develop a turnaround plan with Jumoke that they hope the state will accept for 2012-13.

Pryor noted Friday that the $7.5 million budgeted for the network next fiscal year includes money for schools that would implement their reform strategies in 2013-14 and are engaged in "planning activities."

Additional state money is available through a $39.5 million conditional funding program for Connecticut's so-called Alliance Districts. The 30 lowest-performing school systems, from Ansonia to Meriden to Windsor Locks, are eligible if they rank their schools in tiers and submit detailed reform proposals for lifting achievement in 2012-13, such as extended school days and early literacy programs, Pryor said.

The final deadline for those applications is Aug. 15.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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