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CT District ARP Plans; An Event on Voter Rights; Overhauling Public Service Loan Forgiveness

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Are CT District ARP Plans Looking Ahead? An Event on Combating Voter Disenfranchisement. Overhauling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Are CT District ARP Plans Looking Ahead?

With the large influx of federal COVID relief dollars coming to the state, districts have had a requirement this summer to publish an online plan for “safe return to in-person instruction.” The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) asked them to focus their plans on two main components: health/safety strategies, and continuity of services. Admittedly, the local plans are not easy for the public to find, but we’ve taken a peek at how a few of the highest- and lowest-performing districts in the state intend to address students’ academic and social emotional needs. Here are some highlights:

  • Commitment to Assessment: Within the small sampling of plans we looked at, several districts were explicit about the importance of ongoing assessment to meet student needs. Bridgeport, Darien, and Norwich each planned to start off the school year with diagnostics, benchmarks, formal assessments, and/or informal assessments so that teachers could adjust their curricula and provide targeted instruction. Ridgefield took it even further, calling for a cycle of assessment-targeted instruction-and re-assessment in which teachers study student performance by grade-level, content area, and intervention teams.

  • Supporting English Learners and Students with Special Needs: New Britain and Hartford are both seeking to place students with special needs, including English Learners and students with IEPs, within the mainstream classroom. They call for a “push-in” model—in which staff providing extra support enter the classroom to meet students’ individual needs.

  • Providing Extended Time: Although the Lyme-Old Lyme district has a very brief plan that prioritizes providing a sense of normalcy across PK-12—one change it offers is additional extended day services to support academic growth and social/emotional development.

  • Focusing on Social Emotional Learning: Bridgeport and Ridgefield both provide ongoing social emotional screening and counseling support. In fact, the latter district makes this its top priority for the year, planning to “focus on students’ mental wellness, curating school environments that focus on the learner first, instead of the academic content.” It describes having a Board Certified Behavior Analyst to consult at the building- and classroom-levels as part of its Tier 1, Core Instructional strategy.

Broadly speaking, with a deficit of detailed information about local ARP plans and implementation, the question remains: Will districts harness the full potential of this federal funding stream to look ahead and create a new paradigm for educational equity?

As our affiliate, Education Reform Now CT, has said time and again in its guidance regarding COVID relief funding, the most meaningful one-time investments will set districts up for long-term rewards and meaningful change. Nevertheless, in a Politico story on Thursday, Secretary Miguel Cardona worried that districts would recycle old strategies, rather than use the federal dollars to “reimagine public education.” In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, he offered the following about the promise of the ARP education funding, "The education system we had before March 2020 is not the goal. We can and we must do better."

Save the Date: Philos Conversations on Voting Rights

On October 19th at 1pm, our national affiliate will host an expert panel on combating voter disenfranchisement, featuring:

  • Maria Teresa Kumar, President & CEO of Voto Latino

  • Jonae Wartel, Vice President of Election & Advocacy at More Than A Vote

  • Shavar Jeffries, National President of Education Reform Now

  • LaTosha Brown, Cofounder of Black Votes Matter.

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