Global Competitiveness Demands Education Reform
CBIA applauds Governor Malloy for his bold call to action on the issue of education reform and urges state legislators to take up the charge laid out in the Governor’s State of the State address.
Connecticut cannot compete in a dynamic global marketplace if the state’s children are not prepared to join the private sector having received a high-quality education.
A strong positive bipartisan reaction to the governor’s message signals that lawmakers understand that a monumental opportunity is at hand; a chance to make a real change for the better in Connecticut by preparing our children for successful, productive, and happy lives.
Republicans and Democrats are right to set aside differences on this critical issue.
House Republican Leader Rep. Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) commended the governor “for putting on the table bold initiatives that, if they become law, would result in significant improvements in public education.”
After a week of rolling out his education reform proposals, Governor Malloy used his session-opening address to emphasize that a broken system of public education imperils Connecticut’s economic future.
“We have jobs that need to be filled—good jobs—and we have people that desperately want to work,” he said. “Yet those jobs remain unfilled, and those people remain unemployed.”
Public schools, he said, are failing at providing children with a “world-class education … and [ensuring] that their skills and knowledge match the needs of Connecticut’s employers.”
The governor’s initiatives range from turning around failing schools and districts to reforming teacher tenure so that it rewards effectiveness, not length of service.
The governor’s proposals match many of the recommendations made in CBIA’s 2012 Government Affairs Program and by other advocacy groups, such as the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS).
In addition to reforms, the governor also announced an additional $50 million in Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funding to local schools. Nearly $40 million of it will go to newly established Alliance Districts, made up of the state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts–contingent on their implementing reform strategies.
In addition to overhauling teacher preparation programs and creating new career ladders for teacher advancement, the governor called for real reform to Connecticut's system of teacher tenure, a system that too often rewards time spent on the job instead of student academic success.
“When I say it’s time we reform teacher tenure, I mean it,” said the governor. “And when I say I’m committed to doing it in the right way, I mean it.”
The right way means an approach that is both pro-reform and pro-teacher. Tenure will have to be earned, and re-earned, based on a teacher's proven classroom effectiveness. To ensure effectiveness, good teachers must be given opportunities to achieve greatness, and exceptional teachers will have the opportunity to earn bonuses.
A new evaluation system for teachers and principals will be employed to speed promotion of effective teachers and provide assistance to those who need it. Evaluations will be based on student learning outcomes, school-wide learning outcomes, and parent and teacher peer reviews.
The system will identify and direct unique professional development needs for individual teachers, supplementing or replacing less targeted professional development that teachers often find burdensome or unhelpful.
The governor also is raising the bar on entrance requirements for the state's private and public teaching colleges. Students will have to have a B+ average to enroll in education programs, instead of the current B- average.
Teacher prep programs themselves will have to pass muster, too. A new Education Preparation Advisory Council within the State Board of Education and the Board of Regents will hold teacher preparation programs accountable for several new quality measures—such their graduates’ actual performance in the classroom.
The education package also includes new financial incentives to recruit top college students into the profession, and a program to develop candidates for principal and superintendent positions.
Connecticut has approximately 120 low-performing schools that have failed for more than five years to make adequate progress under federal guidelines. The governor proposes to address the problem by working on turning around up to 25 schools over the next two years through a newly created Commissioner’s Network.
The network will be a system of supports tapping the expertise of state universities, regional education centers, nonprofit organizations and other providers to help the schools. Leading the $25 million initiative will be a newly created Turnaround Team within the State Department of Education. The team will explore and implement best practices from within and outside the state.
Schools in the network will be administered either by the district or the turnaround team. Among other things, they will be given the flexibility to pay higher salaries for teachers and leaders and to expand the school day.
Those schools improving their performance over a three-year period may receive additional grants but will be required to help other struggling schools.
Tech schools help
Skilled workers are in ever-greater demand throughout the state, and Governor Malloy is introducing legislation to make sure the state's Technical High School System (CTHSS) to meet that demand.
Under the governor's proposals, improved tech school programming will be “tailor[ed] to the needs of employers so that students are better prepared for real-world employment when they graduate,” he said.
Gov. Malloy’s initiative will promote the recommendations of the Connecticut Technical High School System Task Force, one of which is the creation of a separate board to oversee the system. The governor's proposals will include a new, independent board that includes four business leaders along with state education and economic development officials.
Early childhood education
Many believe that closing the state’s achievement gap has to start with expanding access to early-childhood education. Without a quality pre-K experience, children have to play catch-up almost from the start of their educational experience.</p>
The governor proposes to invest $12 million to improve the quality of and expand access to early childhood education and care across the state, including:
- $4 million to provide early-childhood education opportunities for 500 preschool children
- $3 million to increase opportunities and incentives for professional development and for partnering with high schools and colleges to provide college level credits for early childhood coursework
- $5 million to create a statewide rating system to give parents access information on early childhood education programs
The governor also seeks to increase support for alternative schools—including magnet schools, charter schools, and agricultural science schools –and to strengthen their role in improving educational opportunities for students in need.
According to his plan, any new alternative-choice schools would have to be created in “high-need districts,” and would face increasedaccountability for recruiting traditionally underserved student populations.
- $5.5 million in new funding to create capacity for opening new schools
- An increase in the state contribution for charter schools from $9,400 to $11,000 per pupil, with an additional $1,000 per pupil from the local districts
- $5 million more in per-pupil spending to create increased equity for magnet schools funding across the state
- $500,000 for improved training resources and supplies for students in Connecticut’s vocational-technical schools.
Cutting red tape
The governor also aims to cut some of the red tape that school superintendents say bogs down their systems, specifically around teacher certification and data reporting.
Within one year, the State Department of Education will identify and eliminate approximately one-third of the 35 forms used to collect data required by state law this year.
A new Red Tape Review and Removal Taskforce will examine additional ways to cut unnecessarily burdensome state regulations and mandates. What’s more, the teacher certification process will be simplified, along with the state’s system surrounding continuing education credits.
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