Mandate relief bill: Weston school district will benefit

As the legislative session came to a close in mid-June, two bills dealing with education were passed: One includes mandate relief for high performing school districts, and the other allows academically advanced 11th grade students to test out of their senior year.

The first, Public Act No. 13-108, an act unleashing innovation in Connecticut schools, section 4, states that a task force is to be formed to study education mandate relief for high performing school districts.

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26), said the relief mandate would allow more high performing schools to be more self-directed and that the mandates in place would concentrate on low-performing schools.

The task force would review education mandates in the general statutes and regulations of state agencies and make recommendations regarding which mandates may be waived for high-performing school districts. It would also explore ways high-performing districts can work with the Department of Education to relieve other administrative education mandates on these school districts.

“High performing” includes school districts that are among the 15 school districts with the highest absolute district performance index for the school year ending July 1, 2012; or among the five school districts with the greatest rate of progress over the last two years; or among the five school districts with the greatest decrease in the achievement gap for students who were eligible for free or reduced price lunches during the previous two school years.

The task force will be made up of two people appointed by the speaker of the House, two people appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, one person appointed by the majority leader of the House, one person appointed by the majority leader of the Senate, one superintendent from a high-performing school district appointed by the minority leader of the House, and one person appointed by the minority leader of the Senate.

The bill also states that the task force will submit a report no later than Oct. 1 of this year on its findings and recommendations to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly. Once the report is submitted, the task force will be disbanded.

Ms. Boucher, state Sen. John McKinney (R-28) and state Rep. John Shaban (R-135) all voted yes to the bill.

“The measure will provide relief from costly state mandates, and give our most successful districts greater latitude to run their schools as they see fit,” said Mr. Shaban. “With less bureaucracy, fewer costs and greater curricular discretion, our schools will continue to tailor and create the teaching and learning paradigms that work best for our districts.”

Testing out of senior year

Another bill, Senate Bill 1000, an act concerning the board examination series, was passed 35-0 by the Senate. This bill allows high school juniors to test out of their senior year of high school.

“This proposal will allow Connecticut’s academically advanced 11th graders to take existing tests and apply to waive their final year of high school. This would allow them to begin college early,” said Ms. Boucher.

“The focus of the bill is to foster this learning pipeline early and allow our academically advanced students the opportunity to learn and live here in Connecticut,” she said. “The state of Connecticut has always been considered one of the best states for education. It places a top priority on making sure that all our children have access to the highest quality of education instruction available.”

In order for students to test out of senior year, they must attain certain scores on already existing national tests like the SAT or ACTs. They should have high grade point averages, obtain recommendations from at least three teaching professionals at their high school, and the approval of the school system. Finally, they must have approval from the state Department of Education.

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