In February, we launched our 2020 policy goals. For the first time in 15 years, we’re revising our policy goals to account for the rapidly changing needs of students and families. Throughout this crisis, our team has been working closely with students, parents and teachers to understand how best to support them in this difficult time.
These new goals address essential policy questions for the summer and fall including: how to best use COVID-19 federal stimulus funds for CT schools, how to ensure families have accurate information on student progress, how to close digital divides and how to stay focused on students’ needs when they return.
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed Connecticut’s traditional system, replacing school buildings with technology-based learning. Families across the state face a new education reality, now and in the foreseeable future.
As a policy organization, ConnCAN has shifted its focus to ensure that distance learning opportunities are equitably distributed and that Connecticut permanently creates a more just education system.
For Connecticut to ace education in a COVID-19 world, ConnCAN believes the state must do the following:
Require district learning plans that ensure continued student learning
Families know education opens doors for their children’s futures. However, many districts are not meeting families’ needs on a consistent basis. The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered significant inequities in Connecticut’s education system and exacerbates an already gaping opportunity gap. To improve equity, Connecticut must:
- Create a statewide distance learning plan and obligate districts to do the same
- Hold districts accountable when they fall short of expectations regarding technology, communication, quality and rigor
- Provide technical support for districts so that a universal level of quality is achieved
Give all students access to digital learning devices and Internet connectivity to aid digital instruction
The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered Connecticut’s existing inequities. While many districts already had computers for each child, urban centers largely did not. This left our most vulnerable populations, especially low-income and students of color, without access to learning for weeks on end. This must never happen again. To achieve a statewide 1:1 device to student ratio, Connecticut must:
- Allow districts to use state bonding money to purchase technology (similar to a school construction fund)
- Identify the breadth of the digital divide, including access to high-speed Internet and devices by district
- Continue strong partnerships with philanthropy as they strengthen public-private partnerships
Assess student learning at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year and provide the information to parents
Parents have expressed deep concern that they will not know if their child is ready for the next grade come fall time. This is further compounded by the absence of statewide testing for the academic year 2019-2020. Without assessment, families, teachers and students may go into the next school year without knowledge of their skills, gaps, or support plan. Connecticut must:
- Administer a fall baseline screening assessment for all public schools
- Create a mechanism for districts to use the results to enable parent decision making on promotion/retention
- Make aggregated results available so the public understands the depth and breadth of COVID-19 learning loss
Ensure federal and state stimulus funding is distributed equitably and based on student enrollment to all types of Connecticut schools – traditional public and public charter
Over the past three years, Connecticut has made strides to improve school funding equity. Decisions during this pandemic should be equitable, as well. This includes:
- Equitable distribution of COVID-19 funds for all public school districts based on student enrollment and need
- Collaboration with magnet, charter and technical schools to ensure schools of choice are not left behind
- Publication of all funding decisions, amounts and rationale, to ensure transparency