What does Gov. Dannel Malloy want? Some on the fringe would have you believe that some evil corporate wizard looking to magically transform Connecticut’s public schools into profit centers for hedge fund tricksters.
Malloy is a politician looking for a big victory. But he’s also the first governor in years willing to face up to the miserable state of our urban schools. Where are the state legislators ready to do the same? I don’t see many.
Sure, I’m biased — I want to see something spark some hope for our struggling school districts. With time running out for action by the General Assembly, here’s my view of what we ought to do:
1. Commissioner’s Network. Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor want extraordinary powers to intervene in the two dozen or so lowest performing schools. This means changing the way these schools are run. Is it possible that we are still debating whether urgent action is needed when so many poor and minority children are failing? Give the commissioner new powers to find new models – and hand the Connecticut Education Association a couple of schools to run if they want.
2. Reading. The governor’s proposal failed to make reading enough of a priority. Legislators ought to embrace portions a bill proposed by the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which emphasizes reading instruction in the early grades.
3. Teacher evaluations with consequences. This one has been way, way overblown by both sides in the reform debate, mostly because of the suggestion that test scores ought to, in small part, be linked job evaluations. Malloy is willing to make his plan a pilot program for the first year. The governor over-played his hand here so this appears like a reasonable compromise from his initial, more far-reaching, plan.
4. Money for charter schools. A major sticking point for the teacher unions, who see non-unionized charters as a legitimate threat. These are also public schools (that are underfunded) that parents overwhelmingly support. The argument that there’s a secret plan to privatize public education is a red herring. Charters must remain public schools in Connecticut. School privatization efforts, by the way, have failed miserably here and around the country. Legislators ought to support an increase in funding for charters — as long as charters prove they are open to all students.