School Proposals: Governor offers comprehensive reform plan
Hartford Courant Editorial
February 08, 2012
What teachers do you remember? Chances are they are the ones who could make you see that there was a bigger world out there, and understand that math, literature, science and history are ways to get there. These stars in the classroom — teachers who are well-prepared, talented, dedicated and hard-working — make all the difference in a child's education.
Gov.Dannel P. Malloywants to produce more such teachers. Is there a reason not to?
Mr. Malloy vowed to improve the state's public schools, a promise that appears to have fired up the state's education establishment. Suddenly, it seems, reform ideas are coming from unions, superintendents, school boards and advocacy groups. Riding the crest of the wave, Mr. Malloy in the past week has proposed to improve low-performing schools, cut red tape, expand early childhood education, add five charter schools, align vo-tech school curriculums with actual jobs and improve teacher preparation.
The rollout culminated Wednesday in the governor's State of the State address, when Mr. Malloy called for an overhaul of teacher tenure, a long-sacrosanct perquisite of the teaching profession that is overdue for reform.
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Most of the areas Mr. Malloy targets for improvement have seen little attention in recent years, for whatever reason. Not coincidently, test scores are flat, the state has failed to win major federal grants, and the achievement gap between poor and better-off students is the worst in the nation. Education has both moral and economic components; it is something we owe to our children, on an equitable basis, and the sine qua non for a capable workforce.
Thus it is to Mr. Malloy's credit that he has made education a high priority. And, acknowledging the importance of the details, all of the steps he proposes will move the state in the right direction.
Some are bold and innovative, such as Mr. Malloy's proposals to improve the quality of people going into the profession. In countries that outperform the U.S., teacher selection and preparation is more rigorous than it is here, according to several studies.
The governor proposes that a student have a GPA of at least 3.3 to get into a Connecticut teacher education program. That would increase teacher quality. The Connecticut Mirror reported this week that only half of the 480 students that Central Connecticut State University accepted into its teaching college in the past two years would have met the new B-plus grade requirement.
Also, making it easier for good teachers from other states to be certified in Connecticut is just common sense.
Then there is tenure, a century-old concept created to protect teachers from political interference that has become lifetime job protection for deadwood. Mr. Malloy proposes that teachers earn and re-earn tenure throughout their careers, and have the help they need to do so. If they can't measure up, they can't stay.
One key to making such a plan work is a new teacher evaluation system developed by a group of educators and released last month. It is based more on student performance — 45 percent — than any other factor. At some schools in recent years, there's been hardly any teacher evaluation of any kind. How can they tell whether a teacher is doing a good job?
The real problem with tenure is that it protects mediocre teachers. That's why there needs to be some kind of renewal process. A proposal from the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents that calls for five-year contracts instead of lifetime tenure seems about right.
As Mr. Malloy suggested in his speech, this is going to take time and a lot of work by everyone involved. He also has to find the $128 million he wants to invest in the initiatives. But it opens the door to positive change.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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