FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: STEPHEN SIDORAK, (860) 933-8100
EMAIL: STEPHEN.SIDORAK@CONNCAN.ORG

Hartford, Conn.—Last week, the Connecticut State Department of Education released guidelines for reopening schools, “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together.”

Included were best practices for public building use, health and safety precautions, hybrid and full-remote learning plans and how to partner with families who choose not to send their children back to school for health reasons.

While most major concerns were addressed, SDE should take additional steps to ensure students in all districts are given opportunities for success. ConnCAN, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, has offered an updated set of 2020 policy goals to bolster state and local efforts and address the concerns of families statewide.

As Connecticut continues its efforts to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, the State Department of Education plans to receive, review and accept/revise district learning plans. These steps will ensure that the state is setting clear and measurable expectations for districts, and will provide technical support, where necessary.

Connecticut’s Reopen Plan requires districts to plan for a full reopening, a hybrid model, and a full-remote model, depending on the health conditions of the state. ConnCAN supports the state’s efforts to improve individual district reopening plans.

ConnCAN Executive Director Subira Gordon said:  “Education systems must be equitable, flexible and accountable to families and the community. Districts throughout Connecticut should be required to develop high-quality learning plans that ensure students will continue learning if schools are either closed or school environments look differently due to social distancing policies.”

Gordon added:  “The “digital divide” is one of the most glaring examples of inequity in Connecticut’s education system. Students in high-resource districts have 1:1 technology access, while students from low-income communities do not. While CSDE’s Reopen Plan addresses technology access as an equity issue, it does not offer actionable solutions for districts to get to a 1:1 student to device ratio.”

ConnCAN believes that many of the remote and hybrid learning plans are impossible without technology for all students and that Connecticut must rapidly expand its support for statewide 1:1 technology access prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Gordon added:  “Without 1:1 technology access, students in high need, low-resource areas will have the illusion of choice, but will, in reality, have limited opportunities to learn outside of the school building.”

From April to June, ConnCAN surveyed 180 families across Connecticut to learn how districts responded to the governor’s executive orders to close schools. Survey respondents were largely satisfied with their district’s overall response, communication and availability of resources. 

However, 8% of students reported not having a computer for distance learning and 17% reported using a shared one. The digital divide in Connecticut’s urban centers tends to be much greater. In Stamford, for example, 41% of students reported not having a computer and 16% reported that they use a shared one. The full results of ConnCAN’s distance learning survey can be found here.

Gordon said:  “As districts plan to reopen schools, we would be wise to address the racial disparities that existed prior to COVID-19 including student engagement, food security and grade-level readiness. During the first half of 2020, student engagement in some Connecticut urban centers was below 30%. Families must know where their children are in terms of readiness and how learning will look this year so they may plan accordingly.”

Based on Connecticut’s SBAC scores released in 2019, it would take 70 years to close the English Language Arts gap between White and Black students and 30 years to close that gap between White and Latino students. Gaps in math scores between White students and students of color are actually increasing, meaning that Connecticut’s education system is becoming less equitable.

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About ConnCAN:  ConnCAN is leading a movement to improve education outcomes for Connecticut’s kids. We bring advocates, policymakers, parents and educators together to change the system and give all kids access to the great public schools they deserve. Learn more at conncan.org.

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