Governor Malloy has taken a leadership role in challenging the status quo in our schools where children are falling behind in core disciplines and the gap in achievement between low-income students and their peers is the worst in the nation. The legislature's Education Committee recently addressed this issue, as well as another proposal concerning vocational-technical high schools.
Governor Malloy has called for reforming teacher tenure rules to give local school districts the flexibility they need to retain new and talented teachers. “I’m pro-reform as long as it doesn’t mean teacher-bashing, and I’m pro-teacher, as long as it doesn’t mean maintaining the status quo,” said the governor.
Current policy in most school districts favors teachers who have seniority by requiring that, if personnel cuts are necessary, newer teachers must be let go first. To meet budget reduction goals, substantially more entry-level teaching positions would have to be eliminated than those of higher-paid but ineffective tenured teachers. It is noteworthy that the state’s highest-need students are the most affected by the “last-in, first-out” system.
Troubled schools are most often staffed by the youngest teachers would lose a greater number of educators in the event of a layoff. What’s more, a system-wide loss of capable younger teachers without regard to effectiveness in the classroom stifles innovation and creates a disincentive to enter the field.
Recent proposals to reform tenure are promising, but they need additional work. Shana Kennedy-Salchow, co-Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement recently testified that the “state should connect teacher tenure to teacher effectiveness,” adding that “student achievement should be the dominant component” of the reformed tenure system rather than years-of-service.
New teacher contracts should reflect the change to a leaner, more effective education workforce dedicated to student success. Specialized skills and training, positive peer review, and student achievement should replace years-of-service as the keys to teacher job security. Tenure rules should protect the best teachers, no matter how long they’ve been on the job.
Education Cost-Sharing Grants
The Governor’s budget calls for the reestablishment of a task force to study education funding. This is a positive step, but the familiar composition and lack of diversity on the proposed task force is a concern. Because current education expenditures are high while educational outcomes are falling short, we can’t accept the status quo. The ECS task force should reflect a broader segment of stakeholders, perhaps including representatives from the Educational Achievement Commission. The funding system should set goals and be held accountable to meet them.
Restructuring Vocational-Technical Schools
Many of CBIA’s manufacturing members have expressed concern regarding the proposed restructuring of Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical High School System. They feel that the system is moving in the right direction, providing gradates with the comprehensive skills they need to compete for high-skill, 21st century manufacturing jobs. The common curriculum of the Vo-Tech High School system has been adapted to meet the needs of students and the employers who rely on them to make Connecticut’s manufacturing workforce one of the nation’s most skilled.
Connecticut vo-Tech students out perform their local district counterparts on CAPT tests, maintain a lower dropout rate than the statewide average, and continue to conform to increasingly rigorous academic standards. Changing the system now could disrupt this progress.