The debate over Connecticut’s education reform is over and the time to move forward with closing the largest-in-the-nation achievement gap begins this year. That was the message Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered Wednesday to a group of more than 100 school superintendents.

“We had a fight, we got a consensus, now we move forward,” he said.

He said the package the General Assembly passed and he signed into law doesn’t reform education itself, “it only begins the process of doing that.”

“Ultimately, we are trying to make sure that all of our children are better prepared for the future in a world economy,” he said. “We’ve gotta catch up. That’s a strange position for America to be in.”

“We are in this together,” Malloy said. “All of the state’s children are our children.”

Malloy urged the superintendents to think about the one outstanding school in their district. The goal is to have every school be as good as that one outstanding school, he said.

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who briefed the superintendents before the governor’s remarks, reminded them that the state “pursued change not based on ideology, but based on what works.”

Perhaps one of the more controversial proposals adopted by the legislature was a teacher and administrator evaluation system, which will be piloted in several school districts in the coming year.

Pryor reminded the superintendents that they placed student achievement at the center of the teacher evaluation process, but they also allowed for teachers and administrators to set goals for themselves as part of that process.

“It’s easier said than done, but it’s essential to the new system and it’s the Connecticut way,” Pryor said.

He said the evaluation system needs to be built on mutual respect and goals.

But evaluating teachers is only part of the system, “we have to support our professionals as well. That is an equal part of the system,” Pryor said.

Connecticut Education Association’s President Shelia Cohen appreciated that state officials acknowledged they have failed to invest in teacher development in a meaningful way in the past, but are committed to improving teacher development.

“Teachers will embrace opportunities to become the best teachers they can be,” Cohen said. “Already this summer, in districts that are piloting the new teacher evaluation guidelines, teachers are stepping up and devising strategies that they expect will be fair and robust.”

New Haven Superintendent Reginald Mayo, who attended the ‘back to school’ meeting, said every year it seems like the General Assembly sets new requirements for educators and every year he accepts the challenge and presses forward.

“I think they’re trying to keep us focused on closing that achievement gap,” Mayo said.

Closing that gap is an incremental sort of thing, but he said it’s one of New Haven’s goals.

“Engage parents, engage the community, and we can reach those goals the governor mentioned of closing that achievement gap,” Mayo said.

“It’s not just about Connecticut or New Haven anymore. It’s about competing worldwide and that’s the way we want to prepare our young people.”