Editor's Note: Jody Goeler noted the following when submitting this letter for publication: "I am sending this as a private citizen, not in my official capacity as superintendent for Regional School District #14."
I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with groups of citizens over the past several weeks to answer questions regarding Region 14’s budget. One concern that continued to arise had to do with the restoration of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction position. Since the revised budget, taking the district from a 3.17 percent to a 1.89 percent increase, still includes this position, I wanted to share with you the sense of urgency I feel in its need.
Many of you may not be aware that for the first time in recent history, the school district is operating without a Director of Curriculum and Instruction or other positions designed to oversee the development, implementation, and oversight of our pre-K through 12th grade instructional program.
The loss of these positions was an unfortunate outcome of budget cuts for the 2011-12 school year. The budget proposal for 2012-13 includes the restoration of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction as the most cost-effective approach to effectively address the instructional initiatives before us to improve student learning, integrate technology, and prepare all of our students for the fast-changing world in which they will soon be expected to successfully compete.
For the first time in our nation’s history, all states are expected to adopt and adhere to a common set of academic standards and outcomes through the Common Core State Standards. While only a handful of states have yet to sign on, Connecticut has joined others in using these standards to guide local districts in developing curriculum and informing instructional practices. In addition, all students must be prepared to take a new set of state exams in 2014 designed to assess the extent to which they are meeting these new standards, which adds a sense of urgency in adopting these initiatives.
If the district is able to reinstate this position, the Director of Curriculum would act to meet the requirements of SB 458, An Act Concerning Educational Reform, by:
- Developing a unified and coherent approach for professional development focusing on improving integration of reading instruction, literacy and numeracy enhancement, and cultural awareness;
- Improving teacher and administrator practice based on results and findings from teacher evaluations;
- Creating a comprehensive, sustained, and intensive program to improve teacher and administrator effectiveness to raise student achievement;
- Ensuring alignment with state and district student academic achievement standards; and
- Providing frequent opportunities for teachers to learn individually or in groups, within their jobs, and as part of a continuous improvement process.
SB 458 also requires the State Department of Education to audit district professional development programs and allows the State Board of Education to assess financial penalties against districts it deems out of compliance based upon such an audit. Under the bill, the State Board of Education can require a school board to forfeit an SBE-determined amount from its state grants, to be assessed in the fiscal year after the determination of noncompliance.
In addition, the new teacher evaluation system must take into consideration “multiple indicators of student academic growth.” Professional development must be based upon individual or group needs identified through evaluations. The Director of Curriculum would address this by ensuring there is a coherent plan for providing professional development to improve instruction and student performance as determined by the Common Core State Standards.
Before implementing the teacher evaluation and support program by July of 2014, the bill requires school boards to provide training for all evaluators and orientation to all teachers they employ regarding the evaluation and support program. Evaluators must be trained before they conduct any evaluations under the new program, and each teacher must complete the orientation before being evaluated. Boards of Education are required to ensure that such training is ongoing and systemic. This work would be facilitated by the Director of Curriculum.
In addition to these mandates stemming from this legislature’s school reform agenda, all public school districts are expected to meet the mandates related to Connecticut’s Secondary School Reform, requiring increased high school credits, the number of required courses, and the assurance that all students have individualized Student Success Plans. Although work has begun in Region 14 around these mandates, the Curriculum Director would oversee and guide this work ensuring all schools are working together to guarantee common experiences and expectations for all students, thus providing opportunities for students to build upon their skills in a purposeful and thoughtful manner as they move from grade to grade.
In my almost 30 years of public school experience, there has never been a more challenging and dynamic time. Similar to our nation’s rallying to meet the challenge set forth by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, there is a new level of urgency to meet a new set of expectations for our children to succeed in a globally competitive economy, a more inter-connected world, and ever-changing conditions. The restoration of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction will provide the Region the opportunity to engage meaningfully in this important work ahead. Thank you for your consideration. Please take the time to show up to the polls and vote “yes” on the budget on June 6th.
Jody Ian Goeler