The Stamford Board of Education policies govern the curriculum, instruction and assessment programs throughout the Stamford Public Schools. Despite budget cuts, COVID and a changing student population, the Superintendent’s role is to translate this policy as best she can.
Currently, there is a disconnect between these areas when all K-12 levels have limited curriculum in place—elementary (21%), middle (15%) and high school (20%) and district assessments show less-than-stellar proficiency levels (reading…54% elementary, 47% middle) and (mathematics…40% elementary, 24% middle). There are definitely strong correlations that there are problems and it starts with Board of Education policy, the blueprint for learning and instruction. The Connecticut Department of Education also emphasizes that regional boards of education not only provide prescribed courses of study, but guide curriculum development through local and regional Board of Education policy (Eric Scoville).
It is my observation, as the Stamford Board of Education Policy Chair, that two policies, in particular—Policies 6121 & 2001—have been under review (6121) or diluted (2001) although strong messages continue to be sent from the teachers and parents—negative district/school climate responses (2019-present); turnover of untenured/tenured staff; exodus of students/families from Stamford; ongoing SEA discussions & surveys (June 2022, February 2023); three protests at the Government Center and five school’s Vote of No Confidence (2021-22); and various budget cuts (i.e. elimination of building data teams, 2018-19).
Policy 6121 (Requires a ‘Standards Based Curriculum & District Curriculum Committee’). Although the Board of Education only reviewed this policy February, May & August, 2022, it still has put implementation on hold for 13 months and counting. This state mandated policy (CSDE Section 10-220e) needs to be actively in place to help support any and all curriculum development and resource purchases. It provides a level of support that assures curriculum work will be guided by expert discussions, strategy sharing, pilot reviews, timeline accountability and assessment evaluations. Sadly, none of this is happening and there is no transparency from central office or the Board of Education.
Policy 2001 (Participatory Management). Due to the community uproar over the 4×4 proposed high school schedule, a SEA Grievance Hearing (April 2022) forced the Board of Education to revise this policy, but due to lack of details, was only approved by a Board of Education majority (February 2023, 6-1-1 vote). The Policy Chair highly recommended that the revised policy needs to include more teacher and parent engagement at all levels. SEA highlighted this again, by sharing how ‘Teacher Voice’ has been overlooked in areas of curriculum, student discipline, new initiatives, schedule changes, co-teaching/co-planning, CT-SED training and transition, meaningful PD, and administrative hiring. As of this month, this list is just being reviewed by the Board of Education President and Superintendent.
These two policies are strong indicators that the Board of Education misunderstands the importance of healthy systemic leadership. The perception is that there is not a deep understanding of how to deal with district-wide CIA (curriculum, instruction and assessment) implementation and accountability. What has evolved is a schism between schools and central office leadership, teachers and grade level/department leaders/building-district administrators, parents and educators, as well as Board of Education members.
There is hope and promise though. This policy snapshot shows the potential available to all students. SPS employees and families have been voicing their frustrations for too long—either by protest, silence or simply leaving the district. I hope it is not too late.
Dr. Rebecca Hamman
Hamman currently serves as Policy Chair for the Stamford Board of Education. Her comments are her own, and do not represent the official views of the Board of Education or its committees.