As mandated under 2001's No Child Left Behind Act, Windsor was in the fall of 2010. "In need of improvement" is a euphemism for what NCLB calls "failing."
On Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that Connecticut was granted a waiver excusing it from compliance with NCLB, and that means some changes will take effect locally, including the label of "failing" school district.
Standing alongside U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Malloy said the waiver will allow the state to fully enact its plan for education reform, which, among many other changes, amends NCLB's approach to identifying areas of need and addressing those areas.
Under Malloy's plan schools will be classified into one of five levels of performance: excelling, progression, transition, review and turnaround, according to a Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) statement. His plan will also reward schools that show significant improvement by labeling them "Schools of Distinction."
By contrast, NCLB is a system under which "there are about 50 ways to fail and the only reward for success is you are not labeled a failure," Duncan said Tuesday.
The legislation's "failure designations" remain one of its core flaws, Assistant Superintendent Robin Sorensen and former Windsor Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Feser told Patch following Windsor's mandated state partnership.
NCLB requires that 100 percent of students perform at or above proficient levels by 2014 — a number that pushes the nation's school districts to improve student performance on standardized tests, but has also created an climate in which the majority of schools would be identified as in need of improvement or "failing" by the time the legislation expires.
With the waiver, Malloy said, the situation of having roughly half the state's public schools labeled as failing is avoided.
However, re-labeling Windsor's school district does not alter the gains that must be made regarding academic performance.
Windsor fell subject to NCLB requirements after the district failed to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (state-defined performance standards) for three consecutive years.
In 2011-12, Windsor failed to meet that standard once again, but dodged state-levied consequences by qualifying for "Safe Harbor" — showing an improvement of at least 10 percent.
While the results weren't dazzling during the first year of Windsor's mandated partnership with the state, based on Malloy's plan, the district could be on its way.
Malloy's plan shoots for districts across the state to be "halfway to achieving our ultimate goal" in six years.
The caveat is that the governor's goal is also higher than NCLB's. NCLB measures school districts' success by the number of students who perform at or above the "proficient" level on standardized tests.
Malloy's plan measures school districts' success by the number of students who reach the highest level of academic performance on standardized tests or "goal."
The good news for Windsor is that it's a step ahead of the game.
In , Sorensen said part of Windsor's State Board of Education-approved improvement plan is to call for its students to reach goal on standardized tests.
Windsor is also ahead of the game when it comes to the state's plans to provide "intensive supports and interventions... for chronically low-performing" districts."
Having implemented a State Board of Education-approved plan for academic improvement in conjunction with the introduction of a CSDE "technical assistance team" — a group charged with monitoring the district's plan, and providing service consultation and the guidance of a retired superintendent to encourage the process of improvement — Windsor is already fully under the wing of the State Department and its plans for improvement.
The state's plans also include the introduction of a "Turnaround Team" aimed at providing "innovative initiatives," and a new teacher and administrator evaluation system, the CSDE says.
A financial boost included in the plan allows for an extra $300,000 in Education Cost Funds (ECS) to be awarded to Windsor. ECS funds are given to towns in an effort to decrease taxpayers' contributions to public education.
The governor also hopes towns will gain from initiatives to improve students' readiness for college or the workforce, and a reduction in paperwork and "red tape" when dealing with the state.