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Superintendents Pressing For State Education Overhaul

Joseph Cirasuolo

November 20, 2011

For the past two years, Connecticut's public school superintendents have been working on a project that surprises most people. These men and women have developed a set of recommendations that would change the system they oversee in profound and fundamental ways.

The Education Transformation Project includes changes in governance, finance, teacher and administrator accountability, assessment, academic standards, use of technology, teacher preparation and certification, school district structure and capacity, public school choice, and student learning styles and needs.

The recommendations even suggest that there may be a need for fewer superintendents in a new system that would focus on children, not adults; on increasing opportunities, creativity and school district capacity, not compliance; and on emphasizing personalized teaching and learning instead of grouping students by age and measuring their progress by via "seat time."

Why would they seek these changes? Isn't Connecticut's system among the best in the nation? We recognize that for many years, the public school system in Connecticut has been successful at providing children with access to a quality education. There are many success stories. Schooling has made a difference in thousands of children's lives and in the success of Connecticut's economy.

But that's no longer enough. Thanks to the dawn of the Information Age, the transition from manufacturing to a service economy and the new reality of global competition, a new system is needed to best prepare our children. We need to make fundamental changes in how we teach children, how we structure the curriculum, raise standards, provide more choices, use time and other resources, and take a new look at how we define and measure success for students, teachers, administrators, boards and others engaged in public education.

Specifically, we need to:

•Give children the opportunity to learn at a pace that is appropriate for them, in ways that are consistent with their learning styles and consistent with their interests.

•Remove the barriers to learning constructed by the traditional school year and school day and by restricting learning to what happens in school buildings.

•Provide high-quality programs for all children beginning at age 3.

•Structure school districts so that they have the capacity to provide students an appropriate range of options and choices.

•Enhance accountability for student success for everyone involved in public schooling.

In addition, public education must integrate services to children and raise community expectations. We must engage families in better ways, and all students must be educated to be college- or career-ready with internationally competitive skills and knowledge. This is happening in other states and in other countries across the globe. We cannot compete without change.

We do not have all of the answers, but we believe that these proposals set the foundation for comprehensive reform of our public school system. We expect that education reform will be a major theme of the next session of the General Assembly and it is important that all of us engage in the discussion about how we can restore Connecticut's place as a leader in public education and in student achievement.

We believe that it is important to engage in a discussion with people both in and outside the educational enterprise — among people who provide the services and those who depend on its success. It is our hope that this report will precipitate a constructive, statewide conversation regarding how to transform schooling so that all children will learn what they need to know to lead decent, productive and successful lives within our borders — and that every poor child in Connecticut will acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to escape from the cycle of poverty.

Joseph Cirasuolo is executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. The association's report, "NextED, Transforming Connecticut's Education System," is online at http://www.capss.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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