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Connecticut Superintendents Join Forces for Education Reform

The Connecticut classroom of the future may not be limited by a traditional school year, the four walls of a classroom, or even the standard progression of grades, based on a proposed package of school reforms that are being supported by all of the state's school superintendents.

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents released its report in November, just in time for the state legislative session that begins February 8. Gov. Dannell P. Malloy has already stated that he wants this year's session to focus on education reform.

The superintendents' recommendations, 134 in all, would transform the state's education system into a "learner-centered" program that begins at age 3, offers parents a menu of options, including charter schools and magnet schools, and offers assessments when an individual child is ready to be tested, rather than having all children tested in a class at the same time.

The superintendents also support consolidating some of the state's tiny school districts to ensure equal resources. Twenty-one of the state's 165 districts consist of only one school.

"We're not at all naive about the challenge before us. We're goring every ox there is," Joseph Cirasuolo, the executive director of CAPSS, told me. The superintendents decided to develop this expansive plan two years ago, when leaders realized that education was shifting from merely providing an opportunity for students to learn, to actually ensuring mastery.

"We superintendents recognized we're pretty well equipped to do the former, but not terribly equipped to do the latter," said Frank H. Sippy, the superintendent of the 4,500-student Pomperaug Regional School District 15, who was on the committee that developed the proposals.

In an interview, Salvatore Menzo, the superintendent of the 7,000-student Wallingford district and another committee member, said the group was "intentionally told be creative, let's try to have no limits."

He said he can imagine a school district that offers universal preschool for 3-year-olds, introduces subjects like foreign-language instruction in elementary school and uses technology to provide enrichment courses that districts might not otherwise be able to offer on their own.

"We cannot continue to rest on the fact that just because what we do now is fine for some of the children, it's going to be fine forever," Menzo said.

I'll have a longer story about this in our next paper edition, which will appear Jan. 11. I'll update with a direct link when it is available.

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