‘Education reform’ dies, which is just as well

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, March 3, 2014

So much for “education reform” in Connecticut. It’s too much for teachers and their unions and, since this is a gubernatorial election year, it is now too much for politicians too. So Governor Malloy has decided to slow it all down — the intensified evaluations of teachers, the new standardized testing of students that was to become part of those evaluations, and the implementation of the “Common Core” curriculum.

It’s not just the political wariness of the governor, a Democrat. Leaders of the Republican minority in the General Assembly were about to propose the same retreat in the hope of ingratiating themselves with the teachers, Connecticut’s most influential and pernicious special interest — except for maybe the liquor stores.

While the political cravenness of it all is instructive, the policy change doesn’t really matter much, since the big problem with education in Connecticut and elsewhere never has been teacher evaluation, deficient as it has been, and the tenure that mediocre teachers have been given. The big problem with education has been the long decline not in the caliber of teachers but the caliber of students.

An essay written by a middle school teacher in West Hartford, Elizabeth A. Natale, published two weeks ago in the Hartford Courant and headlined Why I Want to Give Up Teaching, has become a sensation without being fully understood. While Natale complained about the new administrative demands on teachers, she also cited the unpreparedness of students. Similarly, in a television interview Natale cited the “issues” students bring to school that become classroom problems.

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