School Accountability Is Achievable, Affordable
Of all the challenges facing Connecticut, probably none carries as much risk to our state’s future as the painful difference in academic performance between our lowest-income students and their wealthier peers.
Connecticut’s “achievement gap,” as it is known, could just as easily be called an achievement chasm because it is the worst in the nation. Surprisingly, it isn’t confined to the poorest communities–Greenwich, West Hartford, and Stamford, for example, top the list for the largest gap in Grade 4 reading proficiency.
Connecticut’s future depends on our schools turning out the best and the brightest graduates – young people equipped with skills in math, reading, and science – in order to compete in the global economy. This year, working with the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, CBIA is actively supporting changes in the way our education system meets the needs of all our students.
Because a culture of openness and accountability is necessary for schools and students to be successful, CBIA would like to see district superintendents lead the charge by setting annual performance goals, approved by their respective school boards, for schools’ academic results. The goals and results should be made available for public review and discussion.
What’s more, a significant number of our public schools are being labeled as “failing,” that is, having been evaluated as in need of improvement for five years or more. Superintendents of failing schools should be given the authority and flexibility to make staffing, scheduling, and funding decisions in order to meet their performance goals.
These are no-cost, commonsense solutions that, if enacted, could begin improving our schools this year without impacting the state’s education budget.
CBIA’s members across the state represent the broad diversity of Connecticut’s private-sector employers. These successful businesses need new talent from our school systems in order to innovate and compete, not merely with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but with places such as Singapore and China.
If our schools are going to be successful ventures themselves, we need to start with leadership, transparency, and accountability… and it needs to start this year.
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