As the legislative session came to a close this month, two bills dealing with education were passed — one includes mandate relief for high performing school districts, and the other allows academically advanced 11th grade students to test out of their senior year.

The first, Public Act No. 13-108, an act unleashing innovation in Connecticut schools, section 4, calls for the formation of a task force to study education mandate relief for high-performing school districts.

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26), who voted in favor of the bill, said the relief mandate would allow high-performing schools to be more self-directed while mandates in place would concentrate on low-performing schools.

The task force would review education mandates in the general statutes and regulations of the state agencies and make recommendations regarding which mandates may be waived for high-performing school districts. It would also explore ways high-performing districts can work with the Department of Education to relieve other administrative education mandates on these school districts.

High-performing includes school districts that are among the 15 school districts with the highest absolute district performance index for the school year ending July 1, 2012; or among the five school districts with the greatest rate of progress over the last two years; or among the five school districts with the greatest decrease in the achievement gap for students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches during the previous two school years.

The task force would be made up of two people appointed by the speaker of the House, two people appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, one person appointed by the majority leader of the House, one person appointed by the majority leader of the Senate, one person appointed by the minority leader of the House, who shall be a superintendent from a high-performing school district, and one person appointed by the minority leader of the Senate.

The bill also says the task force will submit a report no later than Oct. 1, 2013, on its findings and recommendations to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly. Once the report is submitted, the task force will be disbanded.

Skipping senior year

Another bill, Senate Bill 1000, an act concerning the board examination series, was passed 35-0 by the Senate. This bill allows high school juniors to test out of their senior year of high school.

“This proposal will allow Connecticut’s academically advanced 11th graders to take existing tests and apply to waive their final year of high school. This would allow them to begin college early,” said Ms. Boucher.

“The focus of the bill is to foster this learning pipeline early and allow our academically advanced students the opportunity to learn and live here in Connecticut,” she said. “The state of Connecticut has always been considered one of the best states for education. It places a top priority on making sure that all our children have access to the highest quality of education instruction available.”

In order for a students to test out of senior year, they must attain certain scores on already existing national tests like the SAT or ACT. They should have high grade-point averages, obtain recommendations from at least three teaching professionals at the high school and the approval of the school system. Finally, they must have approval from the state Department of Education.