“My job tonight is to show you how these changes (contained in Public Act 12-116) are an extention of this (the foundation built under the No Child Left Behind legislation) and talk to you about the implications of this as educators in Connecticut…” said Jonathan Costa, Director of School and Program Services at Education Connection, in his introduction to Pa 12-116, the new education legislation that was passed in Connecticut in May of this year. Jonathan was speaking on Wednesday evening, August 22, before the Regional # 7 Board meeting. His audience was made up of superintendents, administrators, teachers and Board of Ed members from the towns that are part of Regional # 7 as well as Regional # 7′s educators and Board of Ed. members.
The audience listened intently as he outlined the changes in educational philosophy as well as in the practice of the profession that PA 12-116 will bring to education in Connecticut. Jonathan emphasized that the new legislation has made a deepening commitment to standards, testing, accountability and data.
Jonathan described some of the fundamental changes that PA 12-116 will bring about in education. For example, by March 2015, there will be no more Mastery testing in Connecticut, nor will there be CAPT testing in Connecticut; instead, there will be the Smart Balance Consortium Assessment test which, for most students, will be administered online. The new test will measure the depth of understanding of a student in a subject area, as set out by the Common Core Standards that the state adopted in 2010.
In answer to a question as to how many districts will actually be ready to implement the provisions of PA 12-116 this school year, Jonathan responded: “This law was passed in May, the State Board (of Education) approved it on June 27, this (education) model was delivered to us 3 weeks later… It’s happening and the teachers who have gone through (the training) are feeling pretty positive about it. We have a Commissioner (of Education) and a Governor who are not really well schooled at taking “No” for an answer, are determined that we’ve had too many generations of students under-served by our current system and it’s not going to go on any more. There is discussion right now among superintendents to lobby the powers that be to delay the implementation and I tell you, the people who making the decision on whether or not that will happen are in a “Over my dead body” mode right now… They have their foot on the gas pedal and they’re going to keep going. They’re going to help you, to work with you, but my sense is that it’s going to happen. They are willing to deal with implementation issues over endless debate and handwringing over whether it’s going to work.”
Asked if Education Connection has an initial plan to help the districts to begin implementation of the new law, Jonathan said that Education Connection has such a plan and that the first meeting will be on September 10.
At the end of Jonathan’s presentation, Judy Palmer, Superintendent of Regional # 7, thanked him for the great job he had done and added: “There is so much for us to consider here, but the one thing I would like to stress, the thing that we really need to think about as Boards of Education and Superintendents, is the support we need to offer to our teachers. The teachers – they are the core of everything we do. We can do this, we can do it well. We have to work with the teachers, we have to really concentrate on the support that comes down from the Boards right down to the classroom. That’s how we will succeed in this. We will do it and we will do it well.”
Jonathan agreed, saying: “Teachers are going to feel – if we do this wrong – teachers are going to feel completely under assault. You’ve got to look at this as an opportunity. If you look at it like “Guess what, accountability is here to stay, there’s no way around it.” You’ve got to make your peace with the fact that you’re going to get measured, you’re going to get observed. And if you’re not comfortable with that, then public ed is not the place for you because no town is going to give you $70,000 plus $25,000 in benefits and say to you “Go in your classroom, close your door, we don’t care what you do.” That era is gone, it was pre-1986. It no longer exists. There are some teachers who came into the profession before 1986, and they’re not used to thinking that way. That is a cultural change but if we can embrace that and get it and help define this we will help everyone do better. This can be an exciting, professional time but it will take leadership and support to make that happen.”
Following is a video of Jonathan’s presentation which we highly recommend to all education professionals, board of education members, parents and interested members of the public. The face of education is changing in Connecticut, and it is changing quicker than anyone would have thought possible. This video will help you understand those changes.
Download a summary of PA 12-116 provided by Shipman & Goodwin, Counselors at Law. Shipman & Goodwin is the law firm retained by the New Hartford Public Schools: PA 112-116 Summary, Shipman & Goodwin (14).