HARTFORD, CT (STL.News) Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is launching a new state program aimed at engaging with K-12 students who struggled with absenteeism and disengagement during the 2020-21 school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative, known as the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP), will include a partnership between the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and the six state Regional Education Service Centers (RESCs) that will target 15 school districts throughout Connecticut. Funds will go to increasing people power who will be deployed to homes to directly engage with families and students to provide support. Connecticut’s RESCs will coordinate this work with school district officials, local community organizations, and other state service providers, and will be deployed to homes to engage with families and provide support.
The goal of LEAP is to achieve three important outcomes:
- Bridge students back to their school communities for the final months of the school year.
- Support student enrollment in upcoming summer camps and summer learning programs.
- Facilitate for families in need a seamless transition back into their school communities for the 2021-2022 school year.
- Engaging with families through home visits will also enable officials to address other critical needs of students that are identified, such as behavioral and mental health services, housing stability, access to childcare, technology and internet connectivity, transportation, and additional educational support services.
The initiative will be funded with $10.7 million of Connecticut’s federal COVID-19 recovery funding provided through the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund.
“Over the last year, our state has made significant progress in closing digital divides in K-12 education,” Governor Lamont said. “However, the pandemic has continued to create challenges around student attendance and engagement. It is clear that technology and broadband are necessary, but not sufficient, to ensuring our children have the resources they need to succeed during this challenging period. As such, Connecticut is taking another critical step forward with LEAP in keeping our promise of offering a high-quality education to all students.”
“At the outset of the pandemic, we launched an informative student-level attendance tracking system to strengthen our data-driven approach to addressing the root causes of chronic absenteeism and disengagement,” Acting Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker said. “Improving attendance and reaching each and every one of our students require forming strategic partnerships that involve the entire community, establishing systems of support, and focusing resources on the areas of greatest need. LEAP embraces this approach and builds on our ongoing work with educators, families, and community partners to ensure that all of our children are connected with their teachers and their schools.”
Much of the work of LEAP is possible due to the nationally recognized strategies and data collection efforts on student absenteeism led by CSDE. Governor Lamont’s office and CSDE used this absenteeism data, along with other district and student data collected by CSDE, to allocate LEAP dollars to support the districts with the greatest need. CSDE will also partner with Attendance Works, a national organization that promotes better policy and practice around student attendance, to support the initiative.
The 15 participating districts will include:
- The Capitol Region Education Council (CREC);
- East Hartford;
- New Britain;
- New Haven;
- New London;
- Waterbury; and
“This new federal funding will turbocharge Governor Lamont’s LEAP program, helping ensure students recover from pandemic learning losses, finish the school year strong, and have resources to catch up during the summer,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said. “An additional surge of federal funding – $1.1 billion to be distributed within weeks – is also coming to Connecticut right now to help school districts with learning loss, adding to this important down payment by the governor today. But the achievement gap existed before the pandemic and will exist after. The federal government needs to step up on a permanent basis with a reliable flow of funding to truly guarantee equal education opportunity for all students.”
“The pandemic has been particularly hard on our students who were forced to quickly adjust to learning outside the classroom,” Senator Chris Murphy said. “That’s why I fought so hard to get funding in our federal relief bills to jumpstart programs like LEAP to help get disengaged students back into the classroom in an innovative way, and it’s great that Governor Lamont is launching a Connecticut program to do just that.”
“The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for many students this past year,” Congressman John B. Larson said. “That’s why the Connecticut delegation fought for this vital education funding. I applaud Governor Lamont for launching LEAP to ensure students aren’t left behind.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic was more than just a public health crisis, and that’s why the American Rescue Plan not only re-energized our vaccine efforts, but also delivered new support to our local towns, our workforce, and our students and teachers,” Congressman Joe Courtney said. “Learning loss is one of the key areas of recovery we’ve got to address in order to keep our efforts to get life back to normal going strong here in Connecticut, and it’s good to see Governor Lamont and his team working fast to make these new federal resources available.”
“The pandemic created unprecedented challenges for all of our students, teachers, and parents in Connecticut,” Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said. “While we made great strides in getting federal funds to states in their time of need, we must ensure that those funds are used in transformative and bold ways to support the whole student and their families. As the chair of the Appropriations Committee, the committee that determines federal funding for education, I am pleased to see the assistance provided by the state’s new Learner Engagement and Attendance Program (LEAP) being used to help students in Connecticut. Throughout the past year, we witnessed the power of partnerships in rebuilding our communities. LEAP will ensure that children and families have the tools for success as we move forward and work to build back better.”
“Connecticut has the most dedicated teachers in the country and many programs to help students and families in our schools systems, but they can’t work effectively unless we connect people with services and get students in seats,” Congressman Jim Himes said. “These funds will help get students back to school this year, ease the transition back to normal in the fall, and identify services from which families can benefit. This year has been rough, especially for parents and students. We’re here to offer support.”
“Chronic absenteeism and disengagement continue to be barriers to success,” Congresswoman Jahana Hayes said. “These problems have become exacerbated during this pandemic, especially in high need school districts. I am thrilled that Governor Lamont is directing relief aid appropriated by Congress to help resolve this systemic problem. This new program by the state is an example of how the American Rescue Plan will help struggling schools and students around the country.”
“Connecticut’s RESCs are uniquely organized to assist with this critical work,” Dr. Jeffrey Kitching, executive director at RESC Alliance, said. “We are connected within the schools and communities involved, and have the professional capacity to quickly and effectively provide kids and families the necessary supports.”
“Already a leader in advancing innovative and effective approaches to improving student attendance, Connecticut once again breaks new ground with the development of the LEAP program,” Hedy N. Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, said. “ Exemplifying best practices for reducing chronic absence and educational inequity, LEAP uses real-time data to allocate resources where they are needed most. Equally important, it leverages the skills, relationships, and cultural competency of community-based organizations to partner with educators to engage students and families and forge a pathway back to school in the fall.”
“We thank Governor Lamont for taking the lead and supporting our efforts at addressing attendance and student engagement in our schools,” Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni said. “Meriden Public Schools looks forward to partnering with our RESC and our local community organizations to provide necessary supports for our students and families. Together, we can make sure all students have the support they need to be successful.”
LEAP builds upon the ongoing work by CSDE and school districts in addressing challenges related to consistent student attendance and engagement, especially during the pandemic. Last fall, Connecticut distributed 141,000 laptops and 44,000 at-home internet connections for students through the Everybody Learns Initiative, making the state the first in the nation to provide access to learning devices to all preK-12 students in need.