For many, the notion of meaningful education reform in a blue state with strong teachers unions and a general resistance to change is a thing of folly. In a state known as “The Land of Steady Habits,” can reform really take hold?
After watching the past few months up in Connecticut, the answer is a resounding yes. Governor Dannel Malloy has demonstrated the sort of leadership we all seek from our officials, standing strong, fighting for what he believes in, and never wavering from his promise of doing right by the kids and families of Connecticut.
Malloy’s efforts, coupled with the hard work and fire demonstrated by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, legislative leadership, teachers, principals, superintendents, school boards, the business community, parents, and the community at large, have now resulted into a significant step forward for school improvement in Connecticut.
Rather than biting off a small piece now and saving more reforms for later, Malloy et al went at the heart of the issue. The path wasn’t easy, most suggested it was too difficult to complete, but when the dust settles on Connecticut’s 2012 legislative session, the state will have adopted a comprehensive reform package with the power to have real impact and help provide all students access to great public schools.
- A new educator evaluation system, to be piloted in 10 districts this year, that makes student learning outcomes the most important element of teacher and principal evaluation
- That teacher tenure be earned based on effectiveness
- A streamlined dismissal process for chronically ineffective teachers
- A Commissioner’s Network for the state’s lowest-performing schools, providing the leadership, structure, funding, flexibility, and accountability to bring real change to those buildings and students who need it most
- An evidence-based approach to teaching children to read, providing the instruction, measurement, and accountability to get all kids reading at grade level by fourth grade
- Conditional funding for the state’s lowest-performing school districts, offering additional dollars for the implementation of real reforms
- A Common Chart of Accounts so, once and for all, all Connecticut public schools account for their spending in a consistent, transparent way
- Closer to real equity for Connecticut’s charter school students, providing the largest increase in per-pupil expenditure for charter schools in the state’s history
- Additional state-authorized charter schools, including those that serve ELL populations, and providing financial incentives to create locally authorized charters
The significance of these ideas, all part of one comprehensive education reform package, cannot be overstated. While some may want to play down the importance of these efforts or claim that they turned back fictitious reforms never in the bill, these are real gains worthy of real reflection.
Governor Malloy declared 2012 “The Year for Education Reform” in Connecticut. Malloy and legislative leadership are to be credited for delivering on legislation that shakes Connecticut’s public schools out of the status quo muck and puts them on the path to 21st century excellence.
Now the hard work begins. Just because this is the year for education reform does not mean it is the only year for reform. Now CT must enact these efforts with fidelity. Now CT must begin to build on these reforms and identify additional changes necessary to improve instruction and learning in all public schools. And now CT must deliver on its promise to do right by its kids, all of its kids.
As Leo McGarry once said on West Wing, “We play the full nine innings at this level.” Nothing could be truer for education reform in Connecticut. The Nutmeg State is now in the game. It has taken its first cuts from the batter’s box. But we have many more innings to go before the win. But this is a helluva way to approach those early innings.