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Delay On High School Reforms Opposed

State Board Of Education Fears Longer Timeline Would Put Connecticut Students At Competitive Disadvantage

By GRACE E. MERRITT

April 06, 2011

HARTFORD Saying it would put Connecticut's students at a competitive disadvantage, the State Board of Education Wednesday took a stand against proposed legislation that would delay implementing high school graduation reforms by two years.

The board unanimously passed a resolution to oppose a bill that seeks to postpone the new graduation requirements until 2020.

The new requirements, now set to begin in 2014 and fully affect the Class of 2018, will require students to earn 25 credits to graduate, including more math, science and foreign language classes, and to complete a capstone project, such as a thesis, during senior year.

But the legislature's education committee is seeking to postpone the graduation requirements by two years. Under the committee's proposed bill, the new requirements would kick in in 2016 and affect the Class of 2020. Lawmakers said they worried about saddling local districts with the costs of hiring extra teachers to meet the mandates. Early estimates have put the cost at $25 million.

Board Chairman Allan Taylor said it would be a mistake to delay, particularly when 44 percent of the public high schools in the nation plan to meet similar standards by 2016. In addition, all the other states in New England have already moved forward on graduation reforms, said state Department of Education spokesman Tom Murphy.

"Everybody feels that we really cannot afford as a state to put our students in a position where a high school diploma from Connecticut means less than the high school diploma most other students will have," Taylor said.

State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, who is co-chairman of the education committee, agreed that the reforms are needed but said he has heard from constituents concerned about the price tag.

"I think it's inarguably the best policy for us to move ahead with the reform of secondary school curriculum," Fleischmann said. "I would ask the State Board of Education to tell us where we can find the $25 million to cover the implementation costs because that's the roadblock."

State education officials said the cost estimates have been scaled back, and they now believe it would cost a total of $9 million to hire the additional teachers statewide. Eventually, school districts collectively would have to spend another $9 million to hire teachers and staff for the capstone project in the 2017-18 school year.

State education officials said many school districts have already beefed up their graduation requirements and would not be affected much. The bulk of the hiring would affect poor urban and rural school districts, Murphy said. School districts would not need to hire the teachers for a few years since the reforms wouldn't kick in until 2014, he said.

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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