The State of Black CT Alliance (SBCTA), which convenes a statewide network of stakeholders is committed to creating a high quality of life for Connecticut’s Black community through personal accountability, policy research, community services, education and advocacy.
SBCTA has identified critical parts of an effective strategy for reducing the achievement gap. Each requires changes in how ARRA funds are being structured, accounted for, and used:
1. The parental engagement gap needs to be drastically reduced for parents of color. ARRA funds don’t have enough requirements to enforce this effort. SBCTA did a “Real Talk-Know your Child” parent event to help parents understand their child’s need as it relates to educational and life successes. ARRA funds, including but not limited to the Innovation and Race to the Top grant funds should provide money for, and require more intensive strategies for engaging parents of color.
2. School District plans and procedures should be written for the communities they serve, rather than for the districts themselves. Example: look at how many kids are kicked out of school for behavioral issues. Could these number be remedied from a more systematic, culturally responsive use of PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports). School districts should do what is best for students not DISTRICTS! ARRA funds should provide explicit requirements that school districts engage parents in the formulation of proposals for ARRA funds AND also engage parents during the implementation of ARRA-funded programs. Specific programs perhaps modeled on what the State of Black CT Alliance has demonstrated, intentional support so parents can understand data (school performance, placement data, etc.) that is relevant to the needs of their children.
3. Transparency is critical, and it’s important that transparency be provided at all steps along the way, including the writing of proposals, but also the implementation of programs. ARRA funds should have even more explicit requirements of what needs to be shared with the public, and when. Plans and programs, even in draft form, should be available on CD or on web sites; information on how programs are being implemented should also be more easily available.
4.Early intervention is critical. Children need access to high quality pre-school. The quality part of that is important. ARRA funds related to pre-school should provide for building accountability measures into any pre-school programs that get government dollars, whether it’s Head Start, public pre-school or other pre-school settings. Parents need to be trained in how to use accountability data.
5. Response to Intervention (RTI) is an extremely useful tool for pre-school and funds should be provided for bringing RTI to pre-school. Under business as usual we have two problems. First, children of color are overrepresented in special ed referrals in K-12. Second, that kids who need intervention have to suffer through several years of school failure until they get it. The Department of Education should clarify that IDEA funds can be used to bring RTI to Pre-school. The Innovation grant program should emphasize funding for this purpose This will get minority kids early help they need, and prevent them from being sent out of classrooms (even in kindergarten) through the misuse of special ed referrals.
6. A Parent Trigger Law: a concept introduced by the grass-roots group Parent Revolution in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. The Parent Trigger is a concept that will engage the necessary conversations needed among parents, community advocates, and school boards across the state to transform schools from failing to educate some students to educating all students equitably. A “parent trigger” law allows a majority of parents (51%) in a 3 or more year failing school to petition for a school reform. The law would require district to do something sooner rather than later — replace administrators, reconstitute a school or make other major reforms to ensure academic success for ALL children.
7. A Reform Trigger: May 6, 2010 - PARENTS FINALLY HAVE SOME POWER TO TRANSFORM FAILING SCHOOLS. CT lawmakers passed a landmark bill S.B. 438, which contain certain education reform language from H.B. 5491, introduced by the Connecticut General Assembly Black and Puerto Rican lawmakers. This combined bill includes the development of School Governance Councils, majority parents, in ALL failing schools. These School Governance Councils have the power to recommend replacement of administrators, reconstitute a school, or make other major reforms to ensure academic success for ALL children.
The law intentions are to encourage school districts to address low-performance sooner rather than later.