Letter to the Editor by Rae Ann Knopf

Published in The Stamford Advocate, April 11, 2012

To the editor:

A column in The Advocate Sunday misrepresented the work of our organization, the CT Council for Education Reform (CCER).

CCER has a steadfast commitment to understanding the problems that underlie the persistent and growing achievement gap between children living in poverty and their peers. Formed in response to the recommendations of a gubernatorial bipartisan commission on educational achievement, one would be hard pressed to find a more autonomous voice for education reform in our state.

To set the record straight, our priorities go beyond tenure and the commissioner’s authority to turn around low performing schools, issues garnering significant media attention these days. Predicated on effective practices begun many years ago in some states, undertaking meaningful reform involves coordinated systemic change to create sustained improvement.

Our priorities include providing high quality pre-school, particularly for children living in poverty who start out behind in basic areas like reading and vocabulary. We know the effects of these efforts do not last unless they are followed by personalized academic interventions and supports throughout a child’s educational experience. Reading on grade level by the time children leave third grade is foundational and we must provide additional learning time and supports for children who struggle to reach this goal.

Teachers and principals should be compensated fairly and appropriately for the nature of their work and the environment within which they work. Because some schools have existed for many years without systemic supports such as meaningful evaluations and leadership training, well-intentioned teachers, principals, and superintendents may be working in environments so entrenched in negatively reinforcing methods that no real change can occur without a dramatic shift in the rules and structures that govern these environments. Key drivers in changing such systems include — the time dedicated to learning, the way funding flows and is used, and the expectations defined for educators and students in these schools.

Our recommendations are an outgrowth of the recognition that poverty can have a profound effect on a child’s availability for learning. However, we have growing evidence to support that the effect poverty has on learning can be overcome. If we are looking for someone or something to blame for not creating the change we know is critical to every child’s success, we can only look to ourselves to make sure we each do our part.

Rae Ann Knopf

The writer is executive director of the CT Council for Education Reform.

Link to the article here.