By Steven Simmons

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, which tracks the passage and implementation of a 10-year plan to narrow Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Helping low-income students achieve at the same level as their peers is a moral and economic imperative. Not only does our persistent achievement gap impede our ability to break the cycle of poverty, it also damages our state’s economy.

Nearly 8,000 Connecticut students drop out of high school every year, each costing the state approximately $500,000 in social service expenses and lost revenues over his or her lifetime.

Of the students who do finish high school, only 44 percent are college- or career-ready. Many won’t earn a living wage.

New policies in place

The bottom line: If we’re going to fix Connecticut’s education crisis, we must change the status quo. The rubric in CCER’s report is designed to hold the state accountable for doing just that. Points are awarded only when CCER’s policies have actually been put into practice.

We’re off to a strong start, but despite having implemented 31 percent of these policies in only two years, we still has plenty left to do.

Meaningful progress has been made. Teacher tenure has been reformed and established evaluations linking educator effectiveness to student growth implemented. Also implemented is a new framework for turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Still more to do

One pervasive problem is the lack of a quality data system to track students’ progress from preschool to college and/or the workforce. Without it, we can’t properly monitor students or evaluate education practices.

We need to set higher expectations for all students. That means fully implementing the Common Core and requiring high school students to demonstrate mastery of content before graduation. It means measuring students’ progress more frequently so that we can intervene sooner. For low-income three- and four-year olds, it also means providing high-quality preschool experiences.

Another problem is that we’ve done little to broaden the pool of talented educators. We need to improve educator preparation programs, and overcome the ridiculous barriers that keep outstanding leadership in other states from crossing the border to work here.

I applaud the progress made so far. But Connecticut’s hard work has only just begun. We must continue to challenge the status quo if we want every child to have an exceptional education, without exception.


Read the full article here.