Reopen CT Advisory Committee plans for schools to reconvene, + spotlight on Baltimore’s strategy


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. This week, we’re looking at how the Reopen CT Advisory Committee is planning for schools to reconvene, as well as spotlighting Baltimore’s strategy for its schools.


Meeting of CT’s Recovery Committee

On Monday, a subcommittee of the Lamont administration's Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group held a public round table discussion, including two newly added members: Fran Rabinowitz and Robert Rader⁠—Executive Directors of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, respectively. We were pleased to see increased representation from the K-12 sector in these critical conversations. However, several legislators have pointed to a lack of transparency about precisely how the Committee has been formed or whether the members’ recommendations will be incorporated.


The group expressed concerns about reopening schools safely and noted that a potential second wave of the pandemic will require flexibility. Also raised were the likelihood of increased costs for districts, exacerbated equity issues, and developmental delays to young children. Yale University President Richard Levin observed that health conditions in Connecticut actually may not warrant a reopening of schools in the fall. However, he anticipated that the summer would allow for professional development so that faculty can provide quality online learning experiences. Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, who suggested the possibility of staggered reentry, also emphasized that schools must consider how to make remote learning an excellent educational experience for students who cannot come back to campus. The preparedness of the state’s higher education system was clearly on display at the round table discussion. We remain hopeful for details about how the K-12 system will meaningfully increase preparedness for distance learning instruction, provide specific guidelines to districts about curriculum and student engagement, or tackle learning losses when classes resume.


Spotlight: Baltimore’s Plan for Low-Income Students

This week, Sonja Santelises, the CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools published an OpEd indicating that the district will not explore the "desperate measure" of retaining low-income students at their current grade levels when schools reopen. She explains that research finds only small gains for elementary students who are held back, and no gains for older students. Rather than adopt this expensive approach, which could continue a trend of setting low expectations for certain student groups, Santelises argues for recovery funds to be spent on evidence-based solutions for students: strengthening relationships between students and educators; quality, challenging, culturally relevant curriculum that is approved by teachers and outside experts; professional learning for teachers; and assessments that measure students' learning loss when they return to school. She has also made significant investments in early literacy instruction.


The plan proposed by Baltimore Public Schools mirrors the four goals we put out last month for an effective CT education recovery plan. At the state-level, we need to set clear expectations, supported by funding, for how our districts should address learning loss and social-emotional trauma when schools finally do reopen.

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