Education Reform Group To Push For Change In Connecticut
By AMANDA FALCONE
February 08, 2012
StudentsFirst, a California-based nonprofit, plans to announce Thursday that it will push for education reform in Connecticut.
Over the next few months, state lawmakers will discuss ways to improve Connecticut's schools, and StudentsFirst intends to be part of the conversation, said Michelle Rhee, the organization's chief executive officer.
Rhee is the former chancellor of theWashington, D.C., public school system.
StudentsFirst currently works in 14 other states, including Florida, New Jersey and Michigan. While its mission is broad, it has advocated for teacher tenure reform in other states.
In Connecticut, the organization's focus will be determined once it talks to local education advocates, Rhee said. The direction of the organization is driven by its membership, she said.
It was Connecticut members of StudentsFirst, along with other local education reform groups, who urged the organization to come to Connecticut, Rhee said.
"They believe it's time to push for meaningful change," she said.
"We do need some help in Connecticut, said Gwen Samuel, founder of the Connecticut Parent's Union. Samuel said she has been urging StudentsFirst to come to Connecticut for about a month.
"[Parent advocacy organizations] need help getting some steam," Samuel said. "We don't have deep pockets like the teachers' unions."
Samuel says advocacy organizations need to make sure teachers receive the proper support from both their employers and their unions. They also need to fight to ensure that parents have the right to choose where their children go to school.
StudentsFirst's announcement will come a day after Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's State of the State address, in which he stressed the need for education reform. In addition to proposing to boost education funding for struggling school districts, the governor wants to improve the quality of the state's teachers by making standards tougher, creating a new teacher evaluation system and offering financial incentives and professional development.
"The governor has a willingness to look at education reform," Rhee said. "We're very heartened by that, but we want to hold him to that promise."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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