For advocates of comprehensive education reform in Connecticut, 2012 holds tremendous promise.  Governor Dannel P. Malloy has proclaimed this year as “The Year of Education Reform” in Connecticut.  He got a jump on the calendar in late December when he outlined his bold principles for reform in a letter to the state’s legislative leaders.

Malloy continued to build on that momentum by convening a multi-stakeholder workshop, bringing together national thought leaders, local education advocates and other interested parties to Central Connecticut State University.   The workshop addressed key issues such as low-performing schools and districts, cultivating the best teachers and principals, college and career readiness, and school finance.

In his opening remarks to the education forum, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor called the current state of Connecticut’s education system “unacceptable” and he’s right.   The system is in dire need of change. Overall student achievement in the Nutmeg State is flat.  We are home to the nation’s largest achievement gap. Our low-income students are now, on average, more than 3 grade-levels behind their non low-income peers. A large majority of our low-income 4th graders aren’t reading at grade level. According to the latest data from the state’s Department of Education, one in five high school students drop out.  Those that do graduate and move on to one of our state’s postsecondary schools are more likely than not to need remedial math or English upon enrolling.  And, unlike all three of Connecticut’s neighboring states, we’ve failed to secure millions of dollars in additional federal education funding and recently struck out for the third time in our bid to win federal Race To The Top funds.

As the education workshop progressed, it became increasingly clear to everyone present that the key question in this debate has shifted from “Is reform really needed?” to “How do we get there?”  In bringing together an impressive array of stakeholders from all around the education spectrum, Governor Malloy clearly demonstrated that we all need to work together if we are to achieve the meaningful education reform that Connecticut truly needs.  During impassioned closing remarks, he noted that there were many more reasons for all of these stakeholders to come together on education reform than issues to wedge us apart.

Calling education reform the “great civil rights, workers’ rights, economic and education issue of our time,” Malloy implored the 350-plus attendees to step up to the challenge. “This is our moment,” he said.  “We have to come together. We have to be successful.

Connecticut has a well-earned reputation as the “Land of Steady Habits.”  With regards to our broken education system, we can’t afford to maintain the status quo any longer.  For the sake of our state’s children and our state’s future economic wellbeing, this is a steady habit that we need to break.  The time is now to pass meaningful education reform in Connecticut!

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform salutes Governor Malloy for his leadership on this issue.  We look forward to working with his Administration, the Legislature and other key education stakeholders during the upcoming legislative session to make this reform a reality for Connecticut’s students.  There’s no reason why we cannot close the nation’s largest academic achievement gap once and for all.