SERC provided logistical support to the governor's office for Gov. Dannel Malloy's education workshop, "2012: The Year for Education Reform," on Thursday, January 5, 2012. Read about the event below.

'We Have to Be Partners' to Make Change Happen, Governor Says

Gov. Dannel Malloy on Jan. 5 declared 2012 the year for comprehensive education reform in Connecticut and challenged the state to close the nation’s largest academic achievement gap once and for all.

At his education workshop at Central Connecticut State University, Malloy called on the crowd of 350 to help Connecticut shed its reputation as the “land of steady habits”—at least when it comes to education. He suggested that the state would finally move beyond obstacles that have reinforced the status quo and pass comprehensive reform for the benefit of all children.

“This is the moment to do what we have failed to do ever before,” Malloy said. “And you’re the people to do it. And I have great confidence in you.”

Members of the audience included educators, legislators, activists, and representatives from various agencies, including the Connecticut State Department of Education and SERC. Pulling together so many different stakeholders is critical to tackling the achievement gap, Malloy said.

“To properly educate all of our children, regardless of the color of their skin, the preparation their parents had to be good parents or not, the wealth of the community in which they happen to be living in the moment, I understand that to do that, we have to be partners,” he said.

Malloy is urging the General Assembly to begin crafting an education bill as soon as it convenes Feb. 8. In a letter to legislators last month announcing the workshop, Malloy described an outline for education reform that included greater access to early childhood education, intensive interventions in the lowest-performing schools, expanding the models of high-quality schools, and cultivating the best teachers and principals.

Those high-quality schools are often charter schools or other types of environments that have innovative approaches, he said. “If we know these things produce success, then let’s replicate them. And let’s replicate them in a public school setting.”

To keep the best educators, “we simply have to do a better job of counseling teacher talent… to stay in the field,” Malloy said. And for those who cannot improve, “counsel them into other areas [of work] where they could have very rewarding lives.”

Malloy’s speech came on the one-year anniversary of his taking office. At the beginning of his governorship, Malloy said that education reform would have to wait a year in order to focus on the state budget crisis. During that time, however, discussion about jobs inevitably led to serious debates about education, Malloy said.

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More Voices on Developing Great Teachers

Education and Evaluation

Teacher evaluations that provide only a snapshot of performance do not always help determine whether students are actually learning, panelists at the governor’s education workshop said.

The purpose of teacher evaluations should be “continuous improvement,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The evaluations should determine, “Have I taught what needs to be taught? Have kids learned? What do I need them to learn? How do I know if they’ve learned it? And what supports are available if they haven’t?” She challenged the continued focus on test scores in teacher evaluations, citing the “difference between student test scores and student learning.”

Weingarten questioned any singular focus on teacher effectiveness. “Even when [teachers are] the best they can be, it doesn’t mean we’re going to help all kids all the time.”

Also, school leaders should be evaluated right along with the teachers, said Richard Laine, former director of education for The Wallace Foundation. Teacher effectiveness often depends on whether they have a system of support surrounding them.

“Evaluation is not the be-all and the end-all in education,” Weingarten said. “You have to have collaboration, you have to have the building of capacity, … [and] you have to have commitment.”

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Professional Development

Professional development of teachers “in need of improvement” is a key component of improving schools, said Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

While discussions of education reform focus on incompetent teachers, Cirasuolo told the governor’s education workshop that it is not difficult to remove these teachers. The focus should be on those who could improve with some level of professional development, which should be differentiated depending on a teacher’s current effectiveness, he said.

The superintendents’ association recently released a comprehensive set of recommendations on reforming education in Connecticut, including areas of professional development and an individualized path for every student. Click here to read the Educational Transformation Project.

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Building Pre-service Partnerships

State and national leaders at the governor’s education workshop presented several ideas to improve education programs at colleges and universities:

  • “Build real partnerships” between schools and teaching colleges and universities, “not partnerships that come casually,” said Art Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Program.
  • Superintendent preparation programs need to be evaluated based on the performance of the graduates’ school districts, said Robert Villanova of the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.
  • Families and communities need to be part of teacher preparation, so they get exposed to “real people” and not just the classroom environment, noted audience member Gwen Samuel, founder of the State of Black CT Alliance.
  • The education curriculum must address race and make teachers prepared to teach in a diverse environment, the panelists agreed.

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