By Kathleen Megan
Published in the Hartford Courant, January 26, 2012
The Connecticut Council on Education Reform, a non-profit group of business and civic advocates, issued its legislative priorities Thursday, calling for improved teacher preparation colleges and better tracking of education dollars.
Like most people seeking education reform this year — from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to other non-profit advocay groups, a teachers union and school administrators’ group — the council wants policies that assure excellent teaching, pre-school for children whose families can’t afford it, and help for failing schools.
Steven J. Simmons, the council’s vice chairman, decried Connecticut’s achievement gap — the gap in academic achievement between children from high-income and low-income families.
“The gap is not only a tragedy for the children who are impacted,” Simmons said, “it’s a tragedy for our state and its economy.”
On strategies to improve teaching, Simmons said teacher preparation colleges need to be “dramatically improved … and we must do all we can to attract top students to the teaching profession.”
He said that teachers must be “deemed effective” to get tenure and that “tenure cannot be a bar to removing a teacher who is ineffective.”
If layoffs must occur, Simmons said, districts must be able to keep the most effective teachers, rather than be bound by seniority rules.
The council also would like to see bonuses available to teachers and schools for outstanding work and additional compensation available for teachers and principals who work in the lowest-performing districts.
“The private sector should be allowed and encouraged to contribute to incentive plans such as these,” Simmons said.
On tracking education dollars, Simmons said, “we believe there needs to be more transparency in how we spend our money for education.”
The council is recommending that the state education department develop a “common chart of accounts” to show clearly how each district spends education dollars.
Simmons also called for “drastic action” to turn around failing schools and called for a mandatory high school test that all Connecticut students must pass before graduation.
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