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State Board of Education: Connecticut Department of Education’s Impact in the Time of COVID-19

(Hartford) - The Connecticut State Board of Education today released the following statement:

We are all in agreement that 2020 has been an unprecedented year filled with both health and economic challenges. Within the education realm, it has required that every action taken at the state level consider the well-being of both students and teachers. Since March, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) in consultation with the State Board of Education agreed that ensuring access to equitable and meaningful learning opportunities, and doing so safely, must be the priority of the state’s education leaders. We also understood that in-person learning was the best approach.

For the CSDE, it has meant increasing its supportive role to ensure that all of the state’s children continue to have access to education, and that each district continues to have the flexibility necessary to make decisions according to their respective local context and unique circumstances. It has also meant that solutions will not be identical across the board but rather tailored and adapted to each school district in order for them to create structures of support for different aspects of teaching, learning and daily operations.

To assist in those efforts, the CSDE has been in continuous communication with superintendents and stakeholders to provide updates and support. The CSDE created reopening plans that allowed a degree of flexibility but also considered the importance of face-to-face teaching and learning particularly for students with disabilities, English language learners, and students in high poverty districts. The plan, Adapt, Advance, Achieve, an extensive document including 14 addendums, was thoroughly vetted before it was released.

In addition, federal waivers were procured to meet the flexibility that this new reality required. The State Board of Education approved several provisions in accordance with the new reality including flexibility relating to the 180-day requirement central to our statutory structure.

Resources were identified and provided to support distance learning and hybrid approaches. Under the Governor’s leadership, CSDE in collaboration with the Partnership for CT and the Nooyi Family provided 60,000 laptops, and 185,000 Scholastics book packs. Those initiatives, paired with the Governor’s ‘Everybody Learns’ program meant the infusion of over 142,000 devices and Chromebooks to schools, the purchase of broadband access for 60,000 students and the creation of more than 12,000 internet hot spots for children and families who lacked those resources.

The department also began collecting more frequent student-level attendance, participation and enrollment data, including for remote learners, to allow CSDE and districts to establish systems and make data-driven decisions that support stronger student engagement and keep them connected with their teachers and their schools during the 2020-21 academic year.

Webinars have been offered to support educators and families on topics such as social and emotional well-being and assisting students with disabilities during this exceedingly difficult time. Emergency education certification and endorsements were granted to ensure that sufficient numbers of teachers could be present in classrooms. Student voices were sought and considered, and the state’s two teachers’ union, CEA and AFT-CT, participated in numerous weekly meetings to seek their input.  Weekly calls in collaboration with the Department of Public Health have also been arranged for superintendents and local health officials to receive guidance from the state.

This list can go on and on, but it is important to understand the hard work and commitment of the CSDE staff while tackling the challenges of the pandemic to ensure student access to education.  The CSDE understood from the beginning that it had to act with intentionality and relevancy to effectively respond to the current crisis and support students, teachers and families in every school district.

Connecticut's approach to increasing connectivity, access to technology, a focus on a safe return to in-person learning, and never wavering on safety for students and educators has been validated at the highest levels of our country.

In response to the narrative that not enough has been done at the state level, we ask that you review the multiple activities, resources, strategies, and support structures that have been provided. The CSDE is a dedicated group of professionals who believe education is a fundamental aspect of our society and that every student deserves access to it in its most relevant form.



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