By Ed Jacovino

HARTFORD — For an education-minded group of business executives, the biggest priority for fixing the state’s schools is keeping the changes lawmakers adopted in 2012 on track.

“What was accomplished in 2012 was significant,” Ramani Ayer, vice chairman of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, told the State Board of Education this week. “Having reform does not mean students learn and does not mean students attain. Implementation of these reforms is 90 percent of the work.”

Ayer, a former CEO at The Hartford, said in outlining the group’s priorities to the board that first on the list is to “defend” the 2012 law and to fight against “rollback and defunding.”

The law created a new evaluation system for teachers and made it easier for school boards to fire educators, changing the standard from “incompetent” to “ineffective.”

The law also gave the state additional authority to intervene in low-performing schools, funneled more state money for education into low-performing school systems, and expanded access to preschool in urban areas.

Ayer said he doesn’t want the changes to be abandoned simply because people didn’t see results quickly enough.

The group also wants to expand preschool slots and increase state funding for schools to extend the school day. Members further would like to make it easier for people to change careers and become school administrators.

Jeffrey A. Villar, the group’s new executive director and the former school superintendent in Windsor, told the State Board of Education that the state needs more “transformative” leaders.

“Educational leadership is one of the most important factors to student attainment,” Villar said.

His proposal is that the state loosen its accreditation restrictions on school principals and other administrators. That would allow the state to expand an alternate certification program for principals.

The education group also has started working with school systems on special projects, Villar said. In one city, the group helped school officials work to better retain teachers, and this year the schools opened with only one classroom not staffed. Normally, the schools had 25 teacher vacancies at the beginning of the year, Villar said. He didn’t name the city.

The group started as a special task force convened by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, to find ways to close the state’s achievement gap. That’s the difference in school performance between white, more affluent students and minority or less wealthy peers.

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