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Malloy’s Achievement Gap Crusade

Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a sweeping education reform bill calling 2012 “the year of education” in Connecticut.
Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy, education reform
Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy, right, tours Ben Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Conn. with the district’s superintendent, Mark Benigni.

Since the inception of No Child Left Behind in 2002, Connecticut has held the unfortunate distinction of having the highest achievement gap in the nation—and the disparities are not just found in urban areas. In February, Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a sweeping education reform bill, S.B. 24: An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness, making 2012 “the year of education” in Connecticut. Malloy is aiming to close the achievement gap through a number of reforms, including increasing school choice, restructuring the teaching profession, and allowing authority of the state education commissioner to intervene with low performing schools. Of the state’s approximate 1,200 public schools, 135 have been named low-performing for more than five years and many are not areas of high poverty, says Rae Ann Knopf, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

“We have children in affluent communities who struggle because they live in a low-income situation—and their needs must be met too,” says Knopf.

Since February, through a myriad of town hall meetings across the state, increased pushback from teachers’ unions led to the removal of certain elements of the bill, including having teacher evaluations and student achievement account for a portion of teachers’ ability to achieve and retain tenure.

On April 1, Mary Loftis Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) told cable news Fox 61’s The Real Story that the extremity of the reforms is what the unions are opposed to, as the evaluations would be tied to one’s teaching licensure, salary schedule and demotion from the profession.

“If you follow the maze, teachers are left with no certification,” said Levine. Others, such as CCER, felt that removing these elements watered down the reform.

CCER says the state of Massachusetts implemented similar reforms and methodologies 10 years ago and has seen great success. “The two states have very similar demographics,” says Knopf. “They already put them in place and we know they’re working.”

Other reform bills in the state legislature include S.B. 300: An Act Concerning Early Childhood Education and H.B. 5350: An Act Concerning Achieving Universal Literacy by Grade Three, which aim to broaden access to early childhood education and interventions for struggling readers. The state legislative calendar ends mid-May and all constituents hope to reach a resolution before then.