Commission Finalizing Recommendations to Close Connecticut’s Education Achievement Gap

09.01.2010
Workforce

Group includes business leaders and other stakeholders

By Lesia Winiarskyj

Editor, CBIA

In March of this year, Gov. Rell commissioned a task force to investigate and address the state’s education achievement gap: the disparity in academic performance between white and minority students as well as between low-income students and their more affluent peers. (Connecticut’s achievement gap, evident in such variables as grades, standardized test scores, dropout rates, course selection, and college completion rate, is currently the worst in the nation.) The Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement is a volunteer, privately funded group charged with developing recommendations to narrow that gap.

“Connecticut has long prided itself on having one of the finest workforces in the nation,” the governor says, “but this must be inclusive of every child in every neighborhood. The commission I have assembled is made up of those who have achieved success in a number of fields and, most importantly, those who have a passionate interest in helping all of our children succeed.”

Composed of business leaders and other professionals, including CBIA President and CEO John Rathgeber, the group has formed five subcommittees to examine struggling schools and strategies to significantly improve them, including recruiting top administrators, attracting and retaining effective teachers, evaluating teacher performance, and addressing the economic isolation and inequitable distribution of funds that results from Connecticut’s system of more than 167 separate school districts.

This past spring and summer, the commission visited turnaround schools (failing schools that have been successfully restructured) in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport and held public hearings in these communities as well as in Norwich/Willimantic and Waterbury, collecting feedback from community members, school superintendents, board of education chairs, mayors, selectmen, union leaders, principals, and other stakeholders. In addition, the group held extensive conversations with state and national leaders in education reform and visited with senior officials in New York City, Boston, and Delaware (one of only two states to win Round 1 Race to the Top funding). Superintendents and principals from the state’s 15 partner districts with schools targeted for reform met with the commission in September.

The commission’s findings will be summarized in a report identifying the causes of the educational problems in Connecticut and will lay out recommendations and actionable items to close the achievement gap. The report will be presented to the governor, lawmakers, relevant state departments, and the public next month.

For updates on CBIA’s education and workforce development programs, visit cbia.com/edf.

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