Can new school 'pilot' rules prevent tide of controversy?
Updated 5:01 pm, Thursday, June 27, 2013
Superintendent of Schools David Title has unveiled administrative regulations designed to avoid the controversy over an algebra textbook that led to a complaint filed against the Board of Education at the state Department of Education.
The controversy came after parents learned the school district had introduced the textbook in public schools' Algebra 1 classes without approval from the Board of Education. The parents contend the College Preparatory Mathematics textbook caused students to struggle in learning algebra. The CPM textbook, which school administrators said was used as part of a "pilot" study, is not being used in the next school year, and the parents' complaint is pending with another state hearing on the matter next month.
Title's regulations, which school board members briefly discussed at their Tuesday night meeting, include a definition of a "planned pilot program," in which administrators introduce a new textbook, instructional program or course into the public schools on a trial basis; the approval process for the pilot; when the Board of Education needs to approve the pilot, and when parents and school board members will be notified of the pilot.
"Clearly there's a need for greater clarity around this," Title said. "Whatever the (School Board's) Policy Committee wants to do, it can still do, but Central Office really needs some guidance on this."
Title said he brought his administrative regulations to the Policy Committee and incorporated some of committee members' suggestions into the draft of his administrative regulations.
"The administration is taking this seriously and is not waiting for the state," Kennelly said. "I like that something is in place right now."
Title said the school district's Central Office would notify the Board of Education anytime a planned pilot program is introduced in the public schools, but the board would have to approve it only if it involves more than 30 percent of students in a grade level or course or if the planned pilot program lasts more than one semester. The regulations also say that a school board-approved textbook would be used in addition to a piloted textbook.
Kennelly said the existing policy of the school board to receive periodic reports on a pilot program, but doesn't require the board to approve the pilot program. "This is far more reaching than anything in our policies or state statutes for that matter," she said of Title's regulations.
Title's regulations define a planned pilot program as "the field testing of a textbook, core instructional program or new course prior to a research-based recommendation of adoption to the Fairfield Board of Education." The definition does not include field testing of instructional materials that are supplementary, ancillary or to be used for intervention; new software programs or on-line services; or new instructional techniques because those don't require approval from the Board of Education, according to the regulations.
Examples of a planned pilot program include a textbook used in addition to the school board-approved textbook, a new elective course at the high schools, or a core instructional program that replaces an adopted textbook, according to the regulations.
A certified staff member who proposes a planned pilot program has to include the rationale for the pilot, a description of the textbook, course or program to be piloted, the number of students and teachers involved, the length of the planned pilot program, the criteria for determining success, a schedule for reporting interim progress and final progress, costs, and professional development needed before the pilot program is launched.
Before a pilot program is launched, it has to be approved by a curriculum leader or department coordinator/liaison, the principals or headmasters of the affected schools, and the director of elementary education or secondary education, depending on the grades involved. The program would then require final approval from the Curriculum Coordinating Council, and the approval could not be for more than a school year.
Title's regulations require that parents of students in the planned pilot program and the Board of Education be notified at least 30 days before the program starts.
If the program involves a new elective course, the notification can be in the school district's Program of Studies, according to the regulations.
Tricia Donovan, of Taintor Drive, said during public comment that it wasn't clear from the regulations who is responsible for collection of data and when data would be collected.
She said results from the pilot program should be published so people could gain understanding why a new textbook is recommended for adoption.
Title said he would only change the administrative regulations after consulting the Policy Committee.