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State to Oversee Hartford Public School Finances, Summer Learning, and Accountability

Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker to Oversee Hartford Public Schools' Finances

On Wednesday, the Connecticut State Board of Education (CSBOE) authorized Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker to "take the necessary actions" to address financial challenges in the Hartford Public School District. The move follows a looming $40M deficit, which was partially offset in April by cutting dozens of staff positions. According to coverage by The Hartford Courant, chief among the CSBOE's concerns is that the district has yet to draw down $92M in state and federal grants, despite a looming June 30th deadline and the need for massive budget cuts. 

Although Superintendent Torres-Rodriguez pointed to ongoing underfunding of the district, she also released a statement expressing appreciation to the State Department of Education (CSDE)—particularly for examining funding structures for magnet school tuition and special education. CT Insider reports that the SDE will also engage a third party to audit the district's financial systems.

Summer Boost for Learning

Bloomberg Philanthropies released a new national study yesterday that looks at the effectiveness of summer learning interventions to reduce pandemic-era learning losses. The study was conducted in eight cities (Baltimore, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, New York City, San Antonio, and Washington DC) over the course of Bloomberg’s 2023 “Summer Boost” program. Summer Boost grantees are required to provide at least 20 days of in-person instruction, with at least 90 minutes in ELA and in Math. The study compares outcomes for participating students to their peers who did not participate—and shows that participating students gained an average of 4-5 additional weeks of math learning and 3-4 additional weeks of ELA learning. Coverage by The 74 this week explains that, "In reading, that works out to making up about 22% of COVID learning losses; in math, it’s about 31%."

Here in Connecticut, the State Department of Education (CSDE) launched a Summer Enrichment grant program in 2021 to make high-quality summer opportunities more accessible to children across the state. According to a January analysis by the Center for Connecticut Education Research and Collaboration (CCERC), of 70 grantees that specifically focused upon academic achievement, "30% reported quantifiable gains in students' academic learning." Campers in the 2022 program also said their summer experiences fostered excitement about returning to school. This is a meaningful investment - and a list of the 2023-24 Summer Enrichment Grantees can be found here.

CT Recognized for Postsecondary Outcomes in K12 Accountability

Last week, Forbes covered a new report from Education Strategy Group and American Student Assistance, which looks at how states measure the long-term successes of their K-12 and higher education systems. The K-12 system, higher education, and workforce have siloed measures and data systems, the article notes. This makes it difficult to track students’ progress or hold the education system accountable to long-term outcome measures post-graduation. The article particularly highlights Vermont (using a "Post-Secondary Outcomes" indicator to make employment part of the K-12 school accountability system), Kentucky (using a database to collect long-term education and workforce data), and Texas (using a "College, Career and Military Readiness Outcomes Bonus" as a funding incentive for K-12 districts and higher education institutions). 

But the report itself also gives a nod to Connecticut as one of only eight states to include postsecondary outcomes in its accountability system. 

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