Jeffrey Villar is correct when he says there is nothing easy about implementing education reforms, especially when it seems that everything is being changed all at once.

Villar’s observation is based on his experience as school superintendent in Windsor where he oversaw pilot programs testing both new teacher evaluations standards tied to student performance and the introduction of new Common Core Standards in the same years.

“It’s difficult, but it can be done,” he told The Bulletin’s editorial board recently. “What I can tell you from my experience is, the second year went much smoother than the first year when it was launched.”

Villar is now the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER). Having long supported sweeping education reforms, we invited Villar to meet with us to discuss those education reform efforts in preparation of the upcoming legislative session, and in particular concerns being raised over calls to delay full implementation of teacher evaluations this year because of the introduction of the Common Core Standards.

We agree with Villar’s assessment that it is a lot to bite off, but doable. We cannot afford to delay education reform efforts and expect students to be prepared and successful in the future.

We’re failing students

Having the nation’s highest achievement gap between rich and poor students is unacceptable; having a 25 percent high school drop out rate is shameful, and needing to provide more than half of all high school graduates — our successes — with remedial classes at the next educational level in order to compete at that level is an embarrassment.

CCER is a nonprofit organization that emerged from the work of the Commission on Education Achievement established by former Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2010. The commission’s focus was — and now the CCER mission is — to develop and implement ways to close Connecticut’s achievement gap.

Setting the course

The commission’s final report made 67 recommendations to be implemented over 10 years. Thirty-four have been implemented. CCER’s top priority, Villar told us, is to ensure that those measures are sustained and that the other recommendations are implemented in a timely manner.

Among the other legislative priorities that CCER is recommending, and we support, are:

  • An additional 1,000 new preschool slots to be created for the next school year. One thousand new openings were funded in the current fiscal year’s budget, but the need is 6,500 for students from low-income families if significant progress is to be made in closing the achievement gap. It will cost roughly $8 million to fund another 1,000 preschool openings. With a projected surplus of close to $1 billion in this year’s budget, an $8 million investment in the future of children is not an unreasonable request.
  • A thorough review of educational grants to insure that the dollars being invested in education are being used effectively. Education reform does not necessary require more funding but it does demand accountability to ensure expected results are being achieved.
  • And, the creation of a statewide data tracking system that enables educators to more accurately measure student progress over the course of their entire education career — pre-K through college. From that data it will be easier to identity areas were educational improvements are needed and what programs are producing the desired results.

Those ideas would make for a productive legislative agenda.

Read the original post here.