Published by Connecticut Post, December 27, 2010

Among the new courses Gov.-elect Dan Malloy will set in the coming year is that for the state’s Education Department.

He has said he will run a national search for a person to replace Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan, who was appointed to the job in January 2007 and who resigned last week.

McQuillan, in a letter to Education Department employees, noted that the “politics side” of the job was not his strong point. It’s unfortunate, of course, that the job of education commissioner even has a “politics side,” but that’s life in the big city.

As the governor-to-be shapes his plans for the future of education in Connecticut, we’d urge him to heavily consider the 29-page report issued in October by the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, an 11-member group heavily weighted with distinguished business leaders brought together to examine the achievement gap between low-income and non-low-income students.

The report’s numerous recommendations center around six fundamental concepts: demanding accountability, heightening expectations, developing leadership, improving teaching, spending intelligently and focusing on the lowest-achieving schools. The committee’s work is accessible at www.ctachieve.org.

The report recommends some changes at the very top level, including a reorganization that would create a secretary of education who would sit on the state Board of Education and report directly to the governor.

Not every recommendation of the commission may be right for the state’s future, and not every one may fit the education vision Malloy has conjured.

But it’s hard to argue with some of the commission’s recommendations, including its call for holding school leaders, like principals and assistant principals, accountable and relating teacher tenure to effectiveness.

And it’s impossible to argue with the facts that show the achievement gap in Connecticut to be the largest in the country. Closing the gap, as the report notes, is both “an economic and moral imperative” for Connecticut.

As he searches for a new leader for the state’s education system, we hope the governor-elect incorporates pertinent information from the commission report into his system for measuring candidates.

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