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School Reform Proposals Up For Vote

State Board Of Education Expected To Decide Thursday Whether To Accept Turnaround Plans

By Vanessa de la Torre

August 09, 2012

The State Board of Education is expected to vote Thursday on whether to accept the turnaround plans of four schools seeking admission to the Commissioner's Network.

Hartford's Milner Core Knowledge Academy, Bridgeport's James J. Curiale School, New Haven's High School in the Community and Norwich's John B. Stanton School have volunteered for state intervention and would be the first to participate in the network that aims to lift achievement among Connecticut's lowest-performing schools.

If the board approves their proposals, the four schools would share much of the $7.5 million that the state has budgeted for the initiative in 2012-13.

District administrators must implement their plans in time for the first day of school in late August.

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor also invited the Waterbury and Norwalk school districts to apply for a planning grant to possibly implement reform plans in 2013-14 as part of the network.

Jim Polites, a spokesman for the education department, said Wednesday that the process for selecting those planning grants is ongoing.

Connecticut's new education reform legislation calls for about 25 struggling schools to be picked for the network over the next three years. Each of those schools must commit to at least three years of intensive "turnaround" strategies to receive state funding, according to the bill.

No more than two schools can be chosen from one district in a single year, and overall, a maximum of four schools from one district can be part of the network.

Hartford submitted Milner's 110-page application on July 27, detailing a plan for the Jumoke Academy charter organization to manage the prekindergarten to Grade 8 school on Vine Street. Doreen Crawford, who has been Jumoke's principal, would lead Milner as a principal and instructional leader.

Other proposals include extending the school year, assigning an "academic assistant" and a parent volunteer to each classroom to help teachers, limiting class sizes to 22 students and increasing the staff for Milner's English language learners.

A state operations and instructional audit conducted at Milner a month ago -- a prerequisite for network schools -- reported an improved, positive school climate but minimal test score gains to show for it. Auditors outlined a crush of challenges, such as high student turnover.

Throughout the year, Milner receives students who move into low-income housing in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods. Excluding kindergartners, 427 new students enrolled at Milner in the last three years, auditors noted. About 425 students attended the school in 2011-12, and a quarter were not fluent in English.

Thursday's special board meeting is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Room 1D of the state Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

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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