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Norwalk investing big bucks in Common Core School Standards

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – A state mandated program aimed at improving the quality of children’s education is requiring millions of dollars of investment from the city of Norwalk.

“The capital budget is highly unusual this year,” Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “It shows a major commitment to the Common Core state standard.”

The nationwide Common Core standards program is intended to create a common educational standard in math, science and English language arts throughout the United States. Individual school districts have discretion in how the standards are met.

“It may be the biggest change in 30 to 40 years,” Lyons said.

The Norwalk BOE capital budget request for the project approved Tuesday night calls for $1.27 million in 2013-2014 and $700,000 in 2014-2015 for WiFi and tablets. WiFi will be installed in all 19 schools, with 500 access points; 1,000 tablets will be purchased at $500 each.

The budget proposal mentions that the schools’ current infrastructure does not support the teaching or testing of 11,000 students in a computer assisted, WiFi environment.

The English language Common Core component fors grade six through 12 is budgeted at $1.092 million for 2013-2014 and $552,940 in 2014-2015.

In all, the city will spend more than $4.2 million over the next two years on the program.

“It’s critically important that we make this commitment,” Lyons said, adding that the standard tests will be part of how teachers are evaluated in the future.

It would have been better to start the transition in last year’s budget, but given the magnitude of the problems (a $4 million deficit), that wasn’t possible, Lyons said.

In addition to the capital budget items, the operating budget also has significant expenses related to the transition.

There will be 13 new positions added at a cost of $1.079 million in 2013-2015, and additional operating expenses are expected to be $2.190 million during that period. The lion’s share of that total is expected to be included in the 2014-2015 budget.

Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona did not elaborate as to what the new positions would be.

The budget lists an information and technology specialist for $85,000, an implementation coach at $83,000 and a Sheltered Instructional Observational Protocol coach at $83,000.

Board members commented that the budget documents are much easier to read this year due to the efforts of BOE member Steven Colarossi and others. You can find them here.

Norwalk began transitioning to the Common Core program in September in a plan approved by the BOE and the Connecticut State Department of Education. The state adopted the standards in July 2010.

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