Monday, July 23, 2012

10 Lessons Learned Along Road To School Reform

A columnist in the Hartford Courant with 10 lessons from the successful reform efforts in CT:

It was an inspirational photo opportunity at the signing of the long-awaited education reform bill Tuesday at the Capitol when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared "the long debate is over and the new beginning has just begun."

"We will win this battle. We will improve our schools," Malloy told jubilant educators, legislators and business leaders. "We are going to make this happen."

In the end, the governor got at least a taste of much of what he wanted. Teacher unions blocked some of the most radical changes and slowed the pace of the governor's plans. More spending continues to be a large part of the solution.

But what have we really accomplished with all this talk about how to fix Connecticut's lowest-performing schools? What lessons were learned in the much-hyped year of education reform?

Here's my rundown:

…5. Charter schools are the surprise winners. Viewed as deal-killers by the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teacher union, charters instead emerged as surprise victors. State funding for charter schools will steadily grow in coming years, increasing by $1,100 per student to $10,500 per student this coming year. Significantly, charters will be scrutinized more closely and used as models for school reform — a provision that the Malloy administration was unwilling to back away from. Expect substantial growth in charter schools in coming years.

6. Finally, we may be able to clearly and fairly assess good teachers. After a disastrous start, when Malloy suggested that teachers earn the job security called tenure by just showing up for work, a significant new evaluation program emerged that could become the legislation's biggest achievement, if it works. Teachers must demonstrate they are effective. Regular evaluations will be based, in part, on whether students are learning. Educators who are struggling will get additional help. Removing ineffective teachers will be easier. "It is designed to improve every teacher,'' said State Board of Education Chair Allan B. Taylor.


10 Lessons Learned Along Road To School Reform,0,6487639.column

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