An Ed Reform Gov in a Blue State?

For the past few decades, we often talk about who the latest “education governor” is, particularly among Democrats.  In the late 1980s, Bill Clinton of Arkansas tried to take the mantle from the esteemed Jim Hunt of North Carolina.  For a bit, it shifted over to Gaston Caperton of West Virginia, as he emerged from a devastating state-wide teachers strike.  And most recently, it was Virginia’s Mark Warner, who ushered in the 21st century in the Old Dominion by focusing on high school reform.

But recent history points primarily to Republicans as the “education governors.”  Lamar Alexander in Tennessee.  George W. Bush in Texas.  Jeb Bush in Florida.  Mitch Daniels in Indiana.  Republicans seem to have the upper hand when it comes to conditions for pushing forward with reforms.  And while many may question the final outcomes, it is those Republican state leaders, be they in red or purple states, that stand as leaders in education.
This week, we may have seen the start of a major shift in the “education governor” formula.  A true-blue Democrat, in one of the truest of blue states boldly laying out an ambitious set of priorities for education reform.  The leader? Dannel Malloy, the governor of Connecticut.
Governor Malloy was sworn into office this past January, elected in a 2010 cycle that wasn’t particularly friendly to Democrats.  Much of his first year has been spent focused on natural disasters and an unmanageable budget.  He addressed the latter in the most unusual of ways for a governor — he both cut spending and raised taxes.  Connecticut is now looking at a potential budget surplus for the year, and that’s following some significant investment in economic strength and jobs creation in the Nutmeg State.
Through it all, Malloy pledged that 2012 would be the “year of education reform.”  He recognized the important that strong public schools played in strengthening the state’s economy.  He knew he couldn’t give it the full attention it needed in year one of his administration.  But in year two, it would be game on.
Yesterday, Malloy threw that first pitch of that ed reform game in Connecticut.  In a bold pronouncement to the state’s legislative leaders, Malloy offered six key principles that would guide the 2012 legislative session.  He urged leaders to act on these six issues — six topics that are intertwined and interconnected to ensure progress.  And he tasked his new Education Commissioner with presenting specific proposals in the next month or so to address these themes.
So what is Connecticut’s new education agenda?
1) Enhance families’ access to high-quality early childhood opportunities
2) Authorize the intensive interventions and enable the supports necessary to turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools and districts
3) Expand the availability of high-quality school models, including traditional schools, magnets, charters, and others
4) Unleash innovation by removing red tape and other barriers to success, especially in high-performing schools and districts
5) Ensure that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals — working within a fair system that values their skill and effectiveness over seniority and tenure.
6) Deliver more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need — provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success.
Expanding school choice.  Removing red tape.  Valuing educator effectiveness over years on the job.  Focusing resources on the students who need them the most.  This is not a status quo agenda from a typical Democratic politician.  This is the start of an audacious plan focused on actually improving public education for all students, whatever it takes.  These principles can serve as the very model for how a post-NCLB governor of a blue state can take real action steps that get to the heart of what ails our public schools.
Obviously, the devil is in the details.  Connecticut must now look to its State Department of Education to offer up specific policy proposals that ensure effective teachers and principals for all students.  The SDE must move forward ideas on how to fix a school funding formula that has been broken for decades.  And it must do all of this under the reality that there may not be buckets of new money to spend, and we need to expand choice and provide more direct interventions simply by spending existing dollars better than we have in past years. 
While Connecticut is still a long ways from solving its achievement gap crisis and ensuring that all students have access to great public schools, Malloy’s announcement is an important step forward for Connecticut’s students, schools, and the state as a whole.  He has signaled that a Democratic governor in a strong union state can get serious about statewide education reform.  And he has done it in a way that builds on what we have learned from similar efforts in other states, building on the successes and hopefully avoiding the pitfalls.
Yes, Connecticut, we can have an ed reform governor with a real ed reform agenda. 

Reconnecting McDowell County, WV

Readers of Eduflack know I often speak of my roots and connections to West Virginia.  I am a proud graduate of Jefferson County High School in Shenandoah Junction, WV (Go, Cougars!)  But I am particularly privileged to have served on the staff of one of the greatest U.S. Senators in our nation’s history, the Honorable Robert C. Byrd.  

Working for Senator Byrd, I was able to see much of what makes West Virginia and the nation great.  I had the ability to travel the Mountain State’s 55 counties, from its beautiful ranges to its research universities, its large cities to its company towns, its river rapids to its coal mines.  Yes, West Virginia has much to be proud of.  But it is also a state with communities ravaged by poverty, poor health, and struggling schools.
Which is I was so taken by an announcement made last week by the American Federation of Teachers.  On Friday, the AFT officially launched “Reconnecting McDowell County,” a “comprehensive, long-term effort to make educational improvements in McDowell County the route to a brighter economic future.”
Reconnecting McDowell County has an impressive list of partners, including WV Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the WV Congressional Delegation, Benedum Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia, College Board, Safe the Children, WV AFL-CIO, and the West Virginia State Police, just to name a few.  
The effort’s Covenant of Commitment is a particularly interesting read.  The effort is focused on six key issues: 1) education; 2) services for students and their families; 3) transportation, technology, and other issues; 4) housing; 5) jobs and economic development; and 6) the McDowell Community.  In the Covenant, the partners note:
We understand that there are no simple solutions — no easy answers or quick fixes.  Together, we are striving to meet these challenges, but we know we won’t accomplish that in a day, a month, or even a year.  We will find ways to measure our progress, and we believe that the changes we propose and implement must be judged by rigorous standards of accountability.  We accept that this will be a long-term endeavor, and we commit to stay engaged until we have achieved our goals of building the support systems the students need and helping the residents of McDowell County to take charge of their desire for a better life ahead.
Yes, I realize that McDowell County is not alone its history, its current challenges, or its desire to change.  Across the nation, we have counties, cities, and communities that face similar struggles.  What makes this interesting is that Reconnecting McDowell is committed to demonstrating the demographics do not equal destiny.  Old industrial towns, even old coal towns, can be reborn in the 21st century.  We can rebuild currently struggling schools around a new culture of improving instruction, greater accountability, and rising student performance.  And we can work together to put all of the conditions — from housing and health to education and jobs — in place for achievement and success.
We should all keep an eye on Reconnecting McDowell, looking at its metrics and watching its progress.  And we should be asking why we aren’t launching similar efforts in other states, in other counties, and in other communities across the nation.  The principles laid forward by Reconnecting McDowell are universal.  

Saving American Education

So how do we “save American education?”  As a nation we obviously spend a great deal of time diagnosing the problems, while offering a few targeted solutions.  But what does comprehensive treatment of the problem really look like. 

That’s actually the question that Jay Mathews of The Washington Post recently posed to Mark Tucker, the head of the National Center for Education and the Economy.  And Tucker’s answers may surprise some.  His top five solutions?
1) Make admissions to teacher training programs more competitive
2) Raise teacher compensation significantly
3) Allow larger class sizes
4) End annual standardized testing
5) Spend more money on students who need more help getting to high standards
It is an interesting collection of recommendations, which Tucker and NCEE offer based on observing what other countries have done to improve their educational offerings.  But it begs an important question — are these reforms that the federal government should be leading, or reforms that need to be driven by the states?  Can the United States of America really follow the lead of Singapore, a nation no larger than Kentucky?
Yes, it is important we focus on educator effectiveness.  That starts with getting the best individuals into our teacher training programs and continues with ensuring schools are able to recruit, retain, and support those truly excellent educators.  And yes, we should pay those teachers better, but only after we have developed teacher evaluation systems focused on student achievement measures.
And you will get no disagreement from Eduflack on the need to spend more money on the students who need the most help.  The time has clearly come to overhaul our school finance systems to ensure that scarce tax dollars are going where they are needed the most.  We shouldn’t be funding schools based simply on an historical perspective, doing what we do because it worked a few decades ago.  We need to fund our schools in real time, recognizing that all schools — be they traditional public, magnet, technical, or charter — are treated fairly and equitably when it comes to funding formulas and per-pupil expenditures.
But eliminate testing?  While I like Tucker’s idea of three national exams that identify student performance at the end of elementary school, 10th grade, and 12th grade, do we really believe that is enough?  Is one test between kindergarten and high school really sufficient, particularly when we know a third of our elementary school students are reading below grade level and the real trouble spot for our schools is the middle school years?  
Instead of cutting back on the number of tests, we should first look to use our testing data more effectively.  Empower teachers with formative and summative assessment data to tailor their instructional approaches to meet student needs.  Let the data guide what happens in the classroom.  We need to change the mindset that the test is the end product.  It needs to be the starting line, providing educators with a strong diagnosis for how to proceed with the work at hand for a given school year.
That’s how we can save American education.  Data-driven decision making.  Evidence-based instruction.  By better understanding and applying the research, we have the power to focus on effective teachers, getting the resources where they are most needed, and actually improving student achievement.  Without it, we will just continue to feel our way in the dark.

The Strangest of Bedfellows on Ed Reform

This morning’s New York Times Opinion page headline says it all — “How to Rescue Education Reform.”  No, this isn’t the first time we have tried to diagnose the ed reform movement nor is this the first (or last) effort to talk through how ed reform can drive the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

What makes the NYT piece so interesting is who shares the byline.  The most recent piece on how to rescue education reform is co-authored by AEI Education Policy Director Rick Hess and Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond.  While not exactly the Burns and Allen we’d expect to see on education reform, Hess and Darling-Hammond offer an interesting and refreshing perspective on public education’s needs.  The fact that it comes from two individuals who most would believe couldn’t agree that the ed world is round or that it rotates around the sun makes the reccs even more interesting.
And what, exactly, do the dynamic duo offer up?  After agreeing that the federal government “should not micromanage schools, but should focus on the four functions it alone can perform,” Darling-Hammond and Hess point to these four functions:
* Encouraging transparency for school performance and spending, noting that “Without transparency, it’s tough for parents, voters and taxpayers to hold schools and public officials accountable.”
* Ensuring that basic constitutional protections — such as civil rights and special education — are respected.
* Supporting basic research, particularly that which “asks fundamental questions.”
* Providing “voluntary, competitive federal grants that support innovation while providing political cover for school boards, union leaders and others to throw off anachronistic routines.”
On the latter, it is important to note that the authors don’t necessarily see Race to the Top as that innovation, noting that RttT “tried to do some of this, but it ended up demanding that winning states hire consultants to comply with a 19-point federal agenda, rather than truly innovate.”
And what shouldn’t the federal government do?  According to the newest Batman and Robin of education, the feds shouldn’t focus on making schools and teachers improve.  Too much is simply lost in translation as we take it from the Feds down to the schools and districts that need to put it to use.  “The federal government can make states, localities and schools do things — but not necessarily do them well,” Hess and Darling-Hammond write.
So what say you, education community?  Are Linda and Rick onto something?  Have we been over thinking and over planning ESEA reauthorization?  Do we need to focus on a few core principles and not try to be everything for everyone?  Or can we not get beyond the shock of this partnership and thus fail to see the merits of the argument?

Applauding Public School Successes and Progress

In education reform, it is often easy to focus on the negative.  A third of all kids are not reading proficient in third grade.  No coincidence, the high school dropout rate is also about a third.  We have stagnant test scores, even as state standards were reduced.  We are slipping in international comparisons.  And even the U.S. Secretary of Education says four in five public schools in our nation are likely not making adequate yearly progress.

But today I am here to praise some of our public schools, not bury them.  In schools across the nation, educators are recognizing there are serious problems and there are real, productive solutions for addressing those problems.  And in those schools and those communities that are fortunate enough to have superintendents, principals, teachers, and other educators enacting those solutions, the kids are reaping the benefits.
Today’s case in point is up in the Nutmeg State.  Yes, Connecticut has the largest achievement gaps in the nation.  But we are seeing pockets of success and progress in elementary, middle, and even a few high schools across the state. 
Today, ConnCAN (or the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now) released its annual report cards on the state’s public schools.  For the last six years, ConnCAN has provided a simple, yet effective, report card for grading every school and every school district in the state.  Using state test scores, ConnCAN ranks all public schools on how they are doing with regard to four measures — 1) overall performance, 2) student subgroup performance (low-income, African-American, and Hispanic), 3) performance gains, and 4) achievement gap.  Each school receives both a ranking (relative performance) and a letter grade (absolute performance).  The complete set of 2011 ConnCAN report cards can be found here.

In addition to scoring more than 1,000 schools this way, ConnCAN also provides a list of Top 10 schools (elementary, middle and high school) based on many of the above measures.  And to top it off, the not-for-profit offers up a list of 2011 Success Story Schools.  Each of these Success Stories are at least 75 percent low-income and/or minority.  And in each of these schools, at least one subgroup (low-income, African-American, or Hispanic) outperforms the overall average for the state at that school level (elementary, middle, or high school). 
While the staff of ConnCAN deserves real credit for undertaking this effort each year, the intent of this missive is not a self-congratulatory pat on the back.  No, the purpose is to put the spotlight and the plaudits where they belong — on those schools that are making real progress, particularly when it comes to addressing the achievement gaps.
So here’s to the Worthington Hooker School in New Haven, where 86 percent of low-income students are at or above goal.  To Jefferson Elementary in Norwalk, where 67.5 percent of African-American students are at or above goal.  To the Mead School in Ansonia and the Ralph M.T. Johnson School in Bethel, both of which have more than 80 percent of their Hispanic students at or above goal.  And to the AnnieFisher STEM Magnet School and Breakthrough 2, both in Hartford, and Fair Haven School in New Haven, all three of which posted improvement in excess of 20 percentage points from last year.
These — and all of the others on ConnCAN’s 2011 Top 10 and Success Story Schools Lists — are examples of what is possible.  They signal that change, while difficult, can happen.  They show that all students — regardless of race, family income, or zip code — can have access to great schools.  And they demonstrate the power and impact truly great educators can have on the achievement of our young people.
These schools also teach us there is no one solution, no one magic bullet, and no one enchanted elixir for improving our schools.  It takes hard work.  It demands commitment.  It requires a true student focus.  And it calls for learning from and modeling after schools like those recognized by ConnCAN on this year’s lists.
So congratulations to those public schools on ConnCAN’s Top 10 and Success Story Schools Lists and to other public schools posting similar progress in other states across the country.  Kudos to those administrators, teachers, and staff who are making it happen.  And applause to those students and their families who are making clear that terms like dropout factories and achievement gaps can become nothing more than urban legend.
(Full disclosure, Eduflack not only works with ConnCAN, but he also runs the organization.)

Healthy Foods, Successful Students

For those who believe we have survived the economic downturn of 2008 and have righted the ship, today’s New York Times offers a very different perspective.  Sam Dillon reports on the increase in the number of students now receiving free lunches from our public schools, noting a whopping 17-percent increase in the numbers over the last five years.  According to the NYT, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 21 million kids received free school lunches last year through a program that was once seen as a safety net for the poorest of the poor.

What’s even more startling is that “Eleven states, including Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee had four-year increases of 25 percent or more, huge shifts in a vast program long characterized by incremental growth.”
This seems to be the part of public education that we often don’t talk about, or don’t talk about enough.  We acknowledge that poverty is a problem in achieving a high-quality education, but usually align such a discussion with per-pupil expenditures, the presence of white boards, and the general accumulation of “stuff” in our schools.  Schools with “stuff” succeed, those without it struggle.  But all the “stuff” doesn’t do you a lick of good if students are coming to school hungry and leaving even hungrier.
Fortunately, this is a topic that some are looking to bring front and center.  Earlier this month, the Virginia School Boards Association (of which Eduflack is a member) announced its Healthy Foods Initiative.  Led by new VSBA President Joan Wodiska, school districts across the state are beginning to work together to address the childhood hunger issue in the state.  Wodiska’s video announcing the new initiative can be found here.  VSBA is also in the process of creating a Healthy School Meals Database, highlighting some of the best practices that are being used to address the issue.  This includes the work that Eduflack’s own Falls Church City School Board undertook to tackle this problem (which earned the city’s schools the prestigious NSBA Magna Award for its school meal efforts).
While I realize that Virginia is not alone in addressing this issue, the push now coming from VSBA is an important step.  While we all recognize that student achievement is the ultimate goal, we must realize that many factors — effective teachers, research-based instructional materials, proper assessments, meaningful accountability, and, yes, healthy meals — all contribute to a student’s ability to succeed.  
The statistics reported by Dillon and The New York Times are important.  Of greater importance, though, is what we do with them.  Do we act, or do we make excuses?  Fortunately, places like the Old Dominion are choosing the former.

“My Bright Future”

Frequent readers of this blog know that Eduflack can best be described as a pessimist.  My pop icon hero is Eeyore.  And as I’ve often said, it isn’t even a glass half full/empty issue for me, I want to know who stole my damned water.

But sometimes even I can be moved by true positivity and commitment.  And today is just one of those sorts of moments.  This morning, I had the honor of attending the dedication of the new Amistad Academy facility in New Haven, Connecticut.  Founded in 1999, Amistad was the first charter school launched in the Nutmeg State.  And this new campus, just blocks from Yale University, was a project many, many years in the making.
As impressive as the facility is, it pales in comparison to the kids enrolled in the facility.  There is an enthusiasm, an embrace for learning, and a commitment to success at Amistad that is too often lacking in many other public schools – urban, suburban, and rural.  There is a sense of community and family in the building, from the administrators and teachers to the students and families to the community at large.
What is even more impressive, though, are the results.  Amistad is the cornerstone of non-profit Achievement First’s efforts in Connecticut.  At a time when Connecticut is suffering through the worst achievement gaps in the nation, Amistad and its fellow AF schools are demonstrating real results.  On the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Test of 4th grade reading, math and writing, AF students are passing at 75.2 percent rate.  That is a higher passage rate than the state as a whole, and it is a passage rate more than double that in the cities in which they operate.
We see the same for 8th grade performance on the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Exam.  AF posts a 79.5 percent passage rate, again higher than the overall Connecticut average and nearly double that of the cities in which they operate.
Those trends continue.  Looking at the 2011 state scores, 93 percent of AF 10th graders are proficient in all subjects tested by the state, 10 points higher than the state average and 36 percent higher than the proficiency levels in their host districts.
No, it isn’t all about the test scores.  It is also about every single kid at Amistad intending to go to college.  It is about schools like Amistad working with other public schools in the host district to improve instruction across the board.  And it is about demonstrating the cycles of failure and the absence of opportunity that have long dominated too many of our urban centers can be broken and populated.
Too often, we hear the criticism that charter schools somehow do damage to our public schools.  Such urban legend overlooks the fact that charter schools ARE public schools.  When we see the successes and the energy in schools like Amistad Academy, we are reminded of what is possible in public education.  We are reminded of the network that comprises effective K-12 public education — traditional public schools, charters, magnet schools, and technical/vo-tech institutions.  And we see how such institutions can work together to fulfill the social compact we have extended to offer all children — regardless of race or zip code — access to excellent public schools.
At today’s event, Paige Leigh Brown, a 7th grade scholar at Amistad, presented her poem, “My Bright Future.”  Her poignant words said it all:
You look before you and what do you see?
A bright scholar shining beautifully.
I see myself reflected.
My voice in society projected.
I see myself getting a degree
We should seek such insight and sentiment from every single student who passes through our public schoolhouse doors, whether they be traditional, charter, magnet, or otherwise.  All students should see a bright future.

Against the Grain

Yesterday, I was on the road, driving back from edu-Grandma’s 94th birthday party.  Such drives are usually the ideal time for Eduflack to reflect, plan, and think through those “big ideas.”  It also gives me the time listen to some of those personal theme songs that litter my iPod.

Every year or so, I like to repost the lyrics to my favorite — Garth Brooks’ “Against the Grain.”  The song is from Brooks’ 1991 album, Ropin’ the Wind.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it should.  But it seemed appropriate this day, this week, this year …

Folks call me a maverick 
Guess I ain’t too diplomatic 
I just never been the kind to go along 
Just avoidin’ confrontation 
For the sake of conformation 
And I’ll admit I tend to sing a different song 
But sometimes you just can’t be afraid 
To wear a different hat 
If Columbus had complied 
This old world might still be flat 
Nothin’ ventured, nothin’ gained 
Sometimes you’ve got to go against the grain 
Well, I have been accused 
Of makin’ my own rules 
There must be rebel blood 
Just a-runnin’ through my veins 
But I ain’t no hypocrite 
What you see is what you get 
And that’s the only way I know 
To play the game 
Old Noah took much ridicule 
For building his great ark 
But after forty days and forty nights 
He was lookin’ pretty smart 
Sometimes it’s best to brave the wind and rain 
By havin’ strength to go against the grain 
Well, there’s more folks than a few 
Who share my point of view 
But they’re worried 
If they’re gonna sink or swiim 
They’d like to buck the system 
But the deck is stacked against ’em 
And they’re a little scared 
To go out on a limb 
But if you’re gonna make a difference 
If you’re gonna leave your mark
You can’t follow like a bunch of sheep 
You got to listen to your heart 
Go bustin’ in like old John Wayne 
Sometimes you got to go against the grain 
Nothin’ ventured, nothin’ gained 

Sometimes you’ve got to go against the grain
Happy Monday!

“Then Raise Taxes!”

There is no question we are asking our states, school districts, and schools to do far more with fewer resources.  The boom years for public education are over, perhaps best emphasized by the end of the multi-billion-dollar Reading First program years ago.  The economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, now coupled with the end of ARRA money for the states means school districts are already pinching the skinniest of pennies.

Regardless of whether I am wearing my ed reformer hat, my school board chairman hat, my pundit hat, or my parent hat, I hate hearing the “do more with less mantra.”  At the end of the day, this is not an issue of doing more.  This is an issue of doing better, pure and simple.  Throughout public education, we must do better with the resources we have, ensuring that those precious dollars are being spent on kids, instruction, and results.  We must demonstrate real return on our education investment, shown through the success of our students.  No ifs, ands, or buts.
That’s why it is so disheartening to continue to see those who defend the status quo crow that it is all about the dollars, that our schools would do more if they only had increased funding.  That the answer, as Diane Ravitch recently put it during a visit to Hartford, CT, is “then raise taxes!”
There is no question that poverty and performance in our public schools are closely linked.  One only needs to look at the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students to see that reality.  But we also know there is no data that proves increasing the per-pupil expenditure results in improved student learning, student test scores, and student success. 
If it were only a matter of dollars, then cities like Washington, DC would have public schools that were all the envy of the wealthiest of suburbs.  If it were only a matter of funding, New Jersey’s Abbott Schools in Newark, Trenton, and Camden would be our nation’s top performers.  If it were all about the benjamins, the recent influx of NCLB dollars would have turned student test scores on its head, with our previously lowest-performing schools outperforming the world.
Don’t get me wrong, money helps.  It helps a great deal.  But it isn’t just about gross dollars, it is about how those gold coins are spent.  It is also about what one is teaching.  It is about who is teaching.  It is about how families are engaged in the learning process.  It is about empowering students and parents.  Yes, it is as much about how we spend the money as the money itself.
Organizations like Education Trust can provide detailed lists of schools in low-income communities, with low per-pupil expenditures who are succeeding against the odds.  In cities across the nation, we see charter schools (and let there be no mistake, charters are also public schools) that are posting top student performance numbers, despite spending only one-half or two-thirds of what is being spent in a low-performing traditional public school in the same city.  Not only can we do better with less, we have true exemplars that are already doing it.
Yes, it would be fabulous if we were able to wave a magic wand and inject billions of additional dollars into our public schools.  It would be terrific if resources weren’t an issue and poverty weren’t a concern that every educator and community leader needed to worry about.  And it would be great if every child could ride a unicorn to school.
Like it or not, we are now in the new normal.  We must do better with the resources we have.  We must ensure all kids have strong, effective teachers leading their classrooms, and those teachers are adequately supported.  We must ensure all students have access to great public schools, regardless of their zip code.  And we must ensure that all of those in the learning process — be they teachers, administrators, students, parents, or even those dreaded reformers — are focused on the true outcomes of public education, and not just on the inputs.

Some Nutmeg on the NAEP

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released the latest round of NAEP scores, offering the most recent snapshot on how our nation’s students are doing when it comes to reading and math.  The results were downright depressing, with the majority of kids still failing to post proficient scores and the achievement gaps growing in far too many areas.

National Journal is running its weekly blog on those very same NAEP results.  You can check out Eduflack’s post on the scores, their impact in Connecticut in particular, and how if these latest scores don’t signify an urgent call, I don’t know what will.
We often think of Connecticut, the Nutmeg State, as the land of plentiful budgets and bountiful student success.  But the numbers tell a vastly different picture.  While Connecticut is indeed in the top 10 when it comes to per-pupil expenditure, it is tops when it comes to achievement gaps.  From my National Journal post:
For those looking to strap on the pom-poms for number one rankings, Connecticut did score first in seven of the 16 disaggregated categories. Of course, that’s a first place for largest gaps. And we’re in the top 10 for every single one of those 16.

As always, this week’s debate is worth checking out, as are the actual reports, breakdowns and official government statements on the 2011 Nation’s Report Cards on reading and math, as released by the National Assessment Governing Board.