NEW HAVEN, CT – On Thursday, February 9th at 8:30 pm, Connecticut Public Television will premiere a three-part series called Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement. This in-depth, behind-the-scenes film takes a look at the challenges and emerging solutions for reforming public education so that every child has the opportunity to receive an exceptional education in our state. Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement tells the story of a public school system that falls woefully short in successfully preparing many young people for the present, much less the future, and shares in compelling detail the ways in which forward thinking education leaders are tackling these problems. Providing a view from all angles, the teachers, the parents, the school leaders and, most importantly, the students, this series provides a more complete understanding of not only the problems we face, but potential solutions at work right now. Produced by documentary filmmaker Jonathan Robinson, this three-part series explores our current educational landscape and takes us on a journey of Connecticut’s potential and hopeful achievement. Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement was made possible through the financial support of The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

Connecticut’s public school system is at a crossroads. Although Connecticut students, overall,score among the top five states in national math and reading tests, our low-income studentsperform at dramatically lower levels than their non-low-income peers. On average, they are aboutthree grade levels behind. Connecticut’s gap between low-income and non-low-income students’ scores, known as the achievement gap, is the highest in the country. Closing the gap and turning around failing schools is critical, not only for the lives of our students,but also for the future well-being of our entire state and its economy. This three-part series highlights models for creating a system of education that raises achievement for all.

“This is a crucial moment for education in Connecticut,” said Rae Ann Knopf, Executive Director of CCER. “We need everyone to understand that this is not just someone else’s problem, it is not just happening in someone else’s school. It is happening right in our own neighborhoods to our own children or neighbor’s children. I believe that it is equally important for everyone to know that education leaders are getting closer to the solutions every day and they are being courageous in pursuing them.”

“There is no greater medium than television to evoke the absolutely heart-wrenching nature of seeing both the negative and positive impact that our education system is having on real children, in real communities and in real time,” Knopf continued. “Jonathan and his team were able to capture these issues on a very personal, but respectful level and we were lucky to have him as a partner on this project.”

“It is critical that we increase public awareness of the state’s achievement gap and the need to lift educational achievement for all of our state’s students,” said Steve Simmons, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of CCER and Executive Producer of the series. “The gap exists in most of Connecticut’s towns whether they are rich or poor, urban or rural. Narrowing the gap is critically important to the state’s economic future. It impacts the ability of our businesses to hire skilled workers, our state budget and even our incarceration rate. And most importantly, it is so important to futures of the children that are impacted by this. Working with Jonathan and his colleagues on this project was a pleasure and we look forward to increasing public awareness of the issues covered.”

“Schools all over the state opened their classrooms, giving us unprecedented access to the inner workings of Connecticut’s educational system,” said Jonathan Robinson, Producer of the series. “The administrators, teachers, students, parents, and education experts we spoke to helped us in our effort to shine a light on not just the problems of our educational system, but, more importantly, on the models for success we have in our midst.”

The film is broken down into three major areas of education:

  • Part 1: A Stronger Start for Our Kids |Explores the importance of high quality early childhoodeducation, especially for low-income children, and the need for targeted academic interventionsbeyond Pre-K.
  • Part 2: Fostering Great Teachers and Leaders | Examines the vital role of teachereffectiveness in improving student achievement and the need for strong, creative, and collaborativeleadership to create meaningful teacher evaluation and development systems.
  • Part 3: Turning Schools Around | Investigates what innovative approaches might be taken torevamp the leadership, policies, and culture of our lowest-performing schools in order to createsuccessful student outcomes.

“I urge everyone in Connecticut to watch this film. Our hope is that it will take you beyond the rhetoric, beyond the jargon and compel you to act in your own communities to support a dramatically revised education system that insists on doing whatever it takes, to meet the learning needs of every child,” adds Knopf.

The February 9th premiere of this three-part Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement documentary is very timely. Governor Dannel P. Malloy has proclaimed 2012 as “The Year of Education Reform” in the Nutmeg State. In advance of the February 8th start of Connecticut’s legislative session, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor have been rolling out key components of their plan to reform the state’s public school system. Among the changes the Malloy administration has proposed are a model teacher evaluation system that includes student performance as a primary factor of evaluation, a new three-tiered teacher certification system that will ensure that the very best teachers are in our classrooms and an increased commitment to providing access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities to all Connecticut children. These proposals are highly aligned with many of CCER’s 65+ policy recommendations on how to close Connecticut’s achievement gap, while raising academic excellence for all students.

(NOTE: Additional airings of Great Expectations: Raising Educational Achievement will follow. Please visit CPTV.org for a list of subsequent airings of the documentary.)