Special Education Shortages in Connecticut
A WFSB story from Monday looked at the impact of the shortage of special education teachers on school districts and families in Connecticut. Students with individualized education programs (IEPs) may be entitled to special education services that are not being provided due to the staffing shortages. For the special education personnel who do remain in districts, this means the workload has become much heavier—making retention all-the-more challenging.
That said, data from the state reveal that the number of full-time, certified special education teachers has grown over time in Connecticut, not diminished. (See graph below.) This preliminary look suggests that shortages are probably not related to the sheer number of teachers who get certified, but rather to the number that districts are individually able to recruit and retain.
In fact, the Office of Legislative Research released the results of a staffing survey in December that had been conducted by the Connecticut State Department of Education. It showed that 25% of all teaching vacancies in the state were in special education, while another 20% were in either math or science. Moreover, the lowest performing districts in the state, the Alliance Districts, have a disproportionate share of the vacancies.
Unpacking Senate Bill 1
Today at 12pm, the Education Committee will host a public hearing on eight bills, including Senate Bill 1—which contains the Senate's priorities for public education. The bill creates a Common Chart of Accounts, tasking the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) with developing a uniform system for charting revenues and expenditures at both the school- and district-levels. It also charges districts with implementing this uniform system of accounting by June 30, 2024, and requires the CSDE to review and report on districts' data annually. We think this is an important measure for transparency, accountability, and policymaking.
SB 1 also adjusts the program for instruction in public schools, adding new requirements for climate change, mental health instruction, sex education, and affirmative consent. Starting in July 2023, it also added Native American studies to the list of requirements, and beginning July 2025, it adds Asian American and Pacific Islander studies.
Also of importance is that SB 1 requires training for the new members of local and regional boards of education. It requires them to complete training in the roles and responsibilities of the board, as well as district budgeting and finance, within one year of assuming office. Makes sense to us!
Connecticut Highlighted for Program to Address Absenteeism
On Thursday, an NPR story cited research by Attendance Works which shows that national rates of chronic absenteeism have doubled since before the pandemic. Home visits, the article observes, are one proven strategy for addressing absenteeism. The article references Connecticut's investment of $10.7M in federal COVID relief aid towards a home-visit program, and indicates that attendance had improved by about 15 percentage points within 6 months for students in the program. On Friday, Governor Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced that the Collaborative for Student Success had highlighted this program as a national best practice.