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State Officials Failed to “Do their Homework” in Extending Term of Special Master in Windham Schools

“Our message to the State Board of Education was loud and clear,” said Randall Prose, a Windham High School social studies teacher and football coach. “We said that plummeting test scores and an achievement gap that’s as wide as ever demanded a closer look at the effectiveness of recent changes imposed by the Special Master. But the board didn’t do their homework, and ignored the lessons that led to the take-over of our schools in the first place,” added Prose, who is also president of the Windham Federation of Teachers, Local 1577.
 
Prose’s comments refer to legislation passed in 2011 directing the SBOE to assign a Special Master to Windham’s school district in order to make yearly progress in both reading and mathematics. At the time state officials claimed the action was necessitated by declining academic performance and the district’s difficulty meeting the needs of an increasing population of educating English Language Learner (ELL) students. 
 
Wednesday Prose submitted testimony to the SBOE advising against renewing the term of the Special Master without first reviewing the district’s record under his authority. Standardized test scores have declined for two consecutive years and bilingual education services were virtually eliminated during 2012 – 2013 school year.
 
“The state isn’t listening, so it’s up to us to take charge and take control of our future,” said, Melanie Godbout, an English teacher in the STEM Academy at Windham High School and a member of AFT Local 1577. “We needed an honest and unbiased assessment of the policy changes under the Special Master legislation. Now is the time to do that work, not next June or some future date. The kids in our classrooms can’t afford to wait,” she said.
 
“This is an opportunity to take on the issues stalling the teachers’ efforts to close the achievement gap in Windham,” said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. “The state has abdicated their oversight responsibility here, so it’s going to take a united, community-led effort,” she said.
 
AFT Connecticut represents more than 28,000 professionals across the state, including 350 teachers and education support personnel in Windham Public Schools. Follow the union on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aftct.
 
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