Changes Could Help Close Achievement Gap

03.07.2011
Issues & Policies

Lagging Classrooms Require Model Curricula, Failing Schools More Oversight

The legislature’s Education Committee heard testimony this week on a proposal designed to help close the state’s worst-in-the-nation educational Achievement Gap. As written, the bill lacks some specific mandates to begin directly addressing components of this very serious problem.

HB 6432 could be improved by expanding application of statewide model curricula through high school and by adopting proactive means of oversight and intervention in failing districts. 

In testimony to the committee, the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement addressed some of the bill’s shortcomings – including that the proposed statewide math and reading curricula be developed only for pre-K through 4th Grade.

Instead, says the commission, model curricula should be applied through the 12th Grade. The cost associated with development and application of this formula would be reduced by working with the consortium of states that have already adopted standard curricula.

In failing school districts, more resources – monetary or otherwise – are often not enough to improve results. One concept in the bill, a proposed State Education Resource Center, could fill a void in oversight – if it’s given teeth.

According to the proposal, the center’s duties “may include training and continuing education seminars, publication of technical materials, research and evaluation, and other related activities.” 

In other words, the office would be nothing more than a passive resource to failing schools that could use its services in a discretionary way. This idea is well and good, however, given an assertive role the office could make a real difference to students stuck in failing schools.

The Resource Center should do more than provide needed seminars and technical materials; it should be crafted to serve as the needed “Turn Around” office proposed by the Commission on Educational Achievement.

Responsible for an accounting of school successes and failures, such an office would be answerable to the Commissioner and vested with the authority to carry out steps of its own in the event that a failing school simply cannot turn itself around.

Because we are hopeful that related legislation this year will empower school principals and superintendents to make staffing and scheduling decisions independent of union rules designed to protect seniority rather than educate students, the Turn Around office becomes all the more important.

Where needed, the Turn Around office could have express authority to contract out for staffing needs and make other requisite changes in a school where internal efforts have failed.

Much needs to be done to close the state’s achievement gap. With some changes, HB 6432 could start the process.

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