The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) today released its annual school and districts report card, charting student academic achievement across Connecticut’s 160 school districts and assigning letter grades to individual schools.

Connecticut bears the dubious distinction of having the worst academic achievement gap between low income and non-low income students in the United States.

While the ConnCAN report highlights success stories in the state’s battle to close the gap, the results also underscore the significant work yet to be done.

If implemented, the following recommendations would correct significant shortcomings in Connecticut’s education policy.

Accountability

Connecticut needs to give educators the flexibility to do what’s best for students, and effective teachers and administrators should be rewarded and retained.

A growing number of states are meeting success with the adoption of evaluation systems based significantly on student academic growth.

We also must  restructure tenure rules so that tenure is awarded to effective teachers, and that effective teachers aren’t among the first to be let go when a school downsizes.

Turnaround Schools

Connecticut has approximately 120 schools “failing” schools that have, for five years or more, failed to attain minimum standards under Federal law.

We need to give the Commissioner of Education more power to intervene in the lowest-performing five percent of schools. On the other hand, as school performance increases, ever greater latitude should be given to local decision making.

Also, prospective teachers and administrators should have uniform certification requirements and experience in underperforming schools.

Transparency

The state must adopt a common chart of accounts so that the public and parents can see where education dollars are being spent.

Currently, spending decisions at the school level are next to impossible to track. Efficiencies through shared services and the elimination of outdated or redundant state regulations will be more easily realized when spending trends are readily comparable.

Connecticut needs to identify and retain effective teachers, fix our failing schools, and account for the massive investment it makes in education every year.

If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, these three will certainly put Connecticut well on the way towards an exemplary system of public education. -- Lou Bach

Lou Bach specializes in education policies for CBIA. Contact him at 860.244.1929 or louis.bach@cbia.com.