Maintaining the status quo in today’s education system has moral and economic consequences, which impact all of Connecticut’s residents – including business leaders.  These issues don’t only matter to those who work inside the education system, and no voice in this discussion should be dismissed as irrelevant, or maligned as being selfishly motivated.  Sadly, the tone of today’s public discourse has made it easy for some stakeholders to misinterpret the goals and messages of business organizations like the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.  We are committed to education reform because we care about the future wellbeing of Connecticut’s students, communities and economy. 

The achievement gap in Connecticut, which is the largest in the nation, has an enormous impact on our state’s low-income students.  On national assessments, low-income 4th and 8th graders in Connecticut, on average, perform at dramatically lower levels than non-low-income students—sometimes up to three grade levels behind.  Moreover, more than 8,000 high school students drop out of Connecticut schools each year.  The impact on these students is that they will face higher unemployment rates, earn far less than those who do graduate, and are three times more likely to be incarcerated.

There is an obvious moral imperative to change the trajectory of these students’ lives and improve these statistics by providing students with the skills and knowledge to graduate from high-school college- or career-ready. Moreover, the achievement gap in Connecticut makes this a less attractive state for business.  Each high school dropout costs the state more than $500,000 over his or her lifetime in net fiscal contributions.  Students who do manage to graduate from high-school, more often than not, require remedial help upon enrolling in our state’s public postsecondary schools.  Meanwhile, Connecticut’s business industry, and economy, increasingly depends upon a skilled and educated workforce.  However, for the first time in fifty years, we are not on track to replace our current workforce with a more skilled labor force.

There is an obvious business and economic imperative to provide students with the skills and knowledge to graduate from high-school college- or career- ready and prepared to contribute to Connecticut’s workforce. We are committed to education reform because we care about Connecticut’s students, and about Connecticut – and we want to find the right answers through collaboration, research, and adopting best practices from other states.  That’s why, as part of our original work as the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, we held six public hearings across Connecticut, met with more than 200 experts and practitioners in the field of education, convened over 40 meetings, visited Connecticut schools, and traveled to three other states to learn about successful reform efforts – all of which informed our report that recommends specific ways to close the achievement gap.

These recommendations for closing Connecticut’s achievement gap were endorsed by teacher and administrator associations from Connecticut and educational leaders throughout the nation. We think it is important that the public become aware of the negative impact the achievement gap has on individual students’ lives and the state at large, and become informed about the successful solutions that have been implemented by schools and districts in Connecticut and around the nation.  That is why we produced a documentary series titled “Great Expectations:  Raising Educational Achievement”, and why we are holding community meetings around the state. Other organizations, such as the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Delaware, have demonstrated that the business community can play an important supportive role as states undertake the work of reforming their public education systems.

We, like they, recognize that every child deserves a high quality education, and that this is a moral and economic issue that affects every resident in every district of the state. It’s time for all stakeholders to put children first, to stop focusing on our differences – and to turn our attention to the most important reason to come together:  ensuring that every Connecticut student receives a high-quality education.

2 thoughts on “Why Education Reform Matters To Business Leaders

  1. Gloria says:

    Teachers want to close the achievement gap, too. That’s why they go to work everyday. That’s why they want more resources for their low-performing students. That’s why they want universal pre-school to give every child the early start he or she needs to become a success. But teachers also know that while their unions agreed through PEAC to a framework for evaluation which stresses accountability, which teachers welcome, tying certification, tenure, and evaluation together as the original SB 24 did is not the “silver bullet” to closing the achievement gap. No one on PEAC discussed doing this for even one minute. When the Governor says that our unions agreed to what was in his original bill, he is mistaken. Teachers are very disapointed that the Governor has made this an all or nothing issue by telling Mayors there will be no money for their towns unless the original bill is passed. We are willing through our organizations to talk to the Governor; so far he has not shown much interest in listening to anyone with a viewpoint different from his.

  2. Parent for Education Transformation says:

    I find it interesting that education transformation opponents (How can anyone be against doing whatever it takes to allow all of our children to be more successful?) are quick to make generalizations about how the failure in education is due to a lack of parental involvement, etc. forgetting that even our most involved parents have had to beg, kick and scream-and spend thousands of dollars- with their children’s schools in order to demand that their child receive a proper education, yet seem to be completely blind to the fact that every profession has lemons-in teaching its those individuals who are not committed to ensuring every child’s successful future-NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES-because those are the teachers that our children deserve and need in their educational lives, yet in all other professions the lemons are weeded out. Public Education’s just get moved to the next grade or a different subject. Teachers, I beg you to please stand up for our children and stop protecting the lemons! They only make your lives harder for you and our children when you are the Post-lemon teacher! Just one year of an incompetent teacher can irreparably reverse the positive path of a child’s future. This is really what SB-24 is all about, don’t you see?! If you polled the parents in your school and asked them how many lemons they’ve experienced-I think that you’d be surprised at the numbers! We know that you work hard-we get it! So do we and every profession is subject to performance evaluations and our pay is tied to the outcome of those. This is where we all find out how we can do a better job! If you are a K-3 teacher and you have not been properly trained to teach reading in such a way that guarantees that all children are proficient readers by the end of Grade 3-you should be able to get that feedback and be allowed the opportunity to correct it, if not-move on. Truly hard working and well meaning teachers would be thrilled to be incentivized toward becoming a more effective teacher (as allowed for in this bill) and all children will benefit from teachers that are truly invested in their success-not just the lucky few children on the very top of the bell curve (the easiest ones to teach), that was never the intention of our public education system and we can no longer tolerate mediocrity in education! Our economy will not allow it. You say you care about our children? Then support their bill! It’s time. If ever they needed you-they need you now!

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