Governor should insist on tying evaluations to consequences
Hartford Courant Editorial
April 18, 2012
With three weeks to go in the legislative session, lawmakers and Gov.Dannel P. Malloystill remain apart on a plan for Connecticut's public schools that would actually accomplish something.
They could, of course, pass a bill authorizing studies and avoid hard issues such as teacher accountability. But that would be a shamefully inadequate exercise.
They need badly to fix failing schools and narrow this state's embarrassing achievement gap between children of poor and middle-income families.
It would be a pity if lawmakers passed up this historic opportunity — with Connecticut's first governor in decades willing to challenge the union-dominated status quo — to do right by kids shortchanged by failing schools.
Talks between legislative leaders and the Malloy administration resumed this week, so there's still time to act courageously.
We prefer Mr. Malloy's original reform plan. It was bold but included elements that have met with success elsewhere. It was, however, in large part neutered by legislative committees, to the applause of the teachers unions, which feel threatened by change.
The governor's advisers say Mr. Malloy is willing to talk, but has drawn a line in the sand around three principles:
Fast Rescues. The governor wants the money and flexibility to turn around failing schools. That means letting the state commissioner of education pick the best model for a school, as well as the best teachers and principal. Just giving schools more money won't do.
The original plan envisioned 25 turnaround schools in the first two years. Lawmakers are talking only five to 10. Mr. Malloy will apparently accept the lower number, and that's too bad. It's too few. Much of the achievement gap lies in those low-performing schools.
Charter schools. The Malloy plan proposed financial equity for these public schools by increasing per-student funding from $9,400 to $11,000 and requiring the sending district to add $1,000 for each student. Lawmakers cut the $11,000 back to $10,500 and made the $1,000 from the sending district optional — which in effect means scratch the $1,000.
Mr. Malloy's bottom line: Restore the funding and increase student slots for charters. Most of these public schools produce good results.
Evaluations. Mr. Malloy first proposed to tie a new system for evaluating teachers to certification. That lit a firestorm of teacher union resentment and opposition. But evaluations have to have consequences in a teacher's world, as they do in just about everybody's workplace. Evaluations have to be tied to something, whether certification or the granting of tenure or pay.
We hope Mr. Malloy holds firm on these three principles. If the legislature passes anything less, it shouldn't be called reform.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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