Last year, the process of passing landmark education reform in Connecticut was uniquely American: messy and confusing, but glorious in its ability to bring diverse peoples together to do the right thing for our children.
Rather than producing incompatible provisions in fits and starts each year, we passed a comprehensive framework of policies to reshape public education in Connecticut—the complex principles shaped around an underlying premise: that providing our children with the best education possible is both a moral imperative and the foundation for our economic revival.
Now, for a host of reasons, attempts are underway to undo some of those critical reforms before they even have a chance to take hold. That means this year is every bit as critical as the last, and the stakes are equally high.
Did you know that in Connecticut’s public schools, 5 out of 6 low-income students, 6 out of 7 black students, and 5 out of 6 Hispanic students in fourth grade do not read at grade level? Many are two or more years behind. Any attempt to delay the implementation of last year’s reforms will lessen the state’s commitment to ensuring that the more than 160,000 students who are currently in grades K-3 in Connecticut are able to read by the time they reach 4th grade.
The teachers and principals who want to offer each Connecticut student an excellent education deserve a revamped evaluation system that provides consistent feedback, meaningful information on student learning, and necessary instructional tools to help every child succeed. Without these resources, teachers and principals will be unable to ensure that every child has the interventions and supports she needs to learn and grow. However, the recently raised S.B. 1097, An Act Concerning Revisions to the Education Reform Act of 2012, will circumvent the collaborative work that has been done so far, and will delay implementation of these critical reforms. In fact, because many districts are already well on their way to implementing meaningful feedback systems for teachers and principals, the only thing S.B. 1097 is likely to accomplish is to stop innovation dead in its tracks.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform urges you to stay strong and continue to support the essential advances made in 2012. One of the problems in education in Connecticut over the past twenty years is that we make laws, and then when the work of implementation begins, we decide it is too hard to carry them out, so we retract or delay them.
The truth is, implementing these major changes in our schools is very difficult work and is highly resource-intensive. It is not nearly as difficult however, as trying to go through life in America unable to read.
For this reason, we urge everyone to once again work together to tackle these problems with the skillful approach of a chisel, rather than the force of a hammer that is likely to leave us with nothing but pieces, and the need to start all over again.
Rae Ann Knopf is the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform