Closing the Achievement Gap: A Call to Action: What Needs to Be Done, Who Needs to Do It
1. The Governor. Connecticut’s new governor must make education reform a top priority of his administration and a key element of the state’s economic recovery plan. He should create the position of secretary of education, with direct reports that include a commissioner of K-12 education, a commissioner of early-childhood education and care, and a commissioner of higher education. He must appoint strong members to the state Boards of Education and Higher Education who will be responsible for closing the achievement gap and for making Connecticut a national and global leader in education.
2. The General Assembly. State legislators must adopt reform measures that will close the achievement gap, set high standards of excellence for all children, and create accountability for results.
3. The Departments of Education and Higher Education. Those responsible for carrying out the state’s education mandate must implement measures to ensure that high-quality teachers and administrators are placed in every low-performing school and: along with superintendents and boards of education: held accountable for results. Instruction must be based on curriculum and assessments that meet high standards for rigor and relevance and prepare all students for post-secondary education and employment without the need for remediation.
Annual performance goals must be set and met to reduce the dropout rate and make certain that all students can read by grade three and graduate with the skills and attitudes necessary for future success. Teacher preparation programs, whether traditional or alternative, must prepare teachers to meet the needs of students from a variety of backgrounds in urban, suburban, and rural schools.
4. School Boards. Whether elected or appointed or a combination of both, school boards must hire strong, reform-minded superintendents, set policy and budgets, and leave operational issues to the superintendents they hire.
5. Superintendents. Those charged with leading school systems, particularly in urban and rural areas, must hire principals with a proven track record in turning around failing schools. Superintendents must also ensure that their principals have the experience, resources, and evaluation tools to be instructional leaders and models for student success.
6. Principals. School principals must hire and supervise the most-skilled teachers available and base decisions to grant teachers tenure on the results of regular, rigorous evaluations of their performance. Educators should love working with children and know how to help them achieve high levels of academic success. They must create a culture of respect in the school and encourage parents to be true partners in their children’s schools.
7. Teachers. All teachers must have high expectations for their students and create a culture of learning in their classrooms. They must provide child-centered activities that engage students and motivate them to strive for success. And they must identify students in need of additional support and be advocates to see that those students’ needs are met.
8. Parents. All parents and guardians must set high academic expectations for their children and make sure that they come to school every day. They must see themselves as partners with schools to ensure that the best educational outcomes are possible for their children. Finally, they must instill in their children respect for teachers and administrators and receive that same respect from the schools.
9. Students. All students must attend school daily and understand the value of education in their lives. They must be attentive in class, respect their peers and school personnel, and have an attitude that shows they are eager to learn. They must take advantage of the educational resources available to them, do their homework, and participate as a active members of their classroom and the life of their school.
10. Businesses. Employers should partner with schools to provide real-world relevance to the instructional curriculum and inform schools of what will be expected of students when they enter the working world. Whenever possible, businesses should provide financial support for schools and grant release time to employees for volunteer activities. They should also provide tutors who can serve as role models to urban students.
11. Community Leaders. Philanthropic organizations and community leaders should support the goals of the superintendent and board of education to ensure that all students in the community can successfully complete high school and enter postsecondary education and employment without the need for remedial work.
12. Colleges and Universities. Postsecondary institutions and their schools of education should prepare teachers and administrators for 21st century schools.
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