Donald Williams, CEA’s director of Policy, Research and Reform, stood up for the interests of public school students and teachers as a member of a panel today at UConn’s Neag School of Education. “To ignore poverty and racial isolation in high-poverty schools is to ignore the fundamental problem in those schools,” he said.
The panel discussion on the future of K-12 education policy in Connecticut also featured Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), and Jennifer Alexander, CEO of ConnCAN.
Saying that Connecticut has some of the best schools in the nation, Williams told the audience that the state needs to concentrate its efforts and resources in the right areas. “If we want to succeed in lessening the achievement gap, we have to be honest about the problem and work to erase the opportunity gap,” he said.
The solution to lessening the achievement gap, “is not additional and endless testing, technology, and data collection. Treating children like widgets on a high-tech assembly line is disrespectful of the needs and individuality of those remarkable children,” Williams said.
Williams said that, as a state, we can lessen the opportunity gap when we treat teachers as professionals, provide students with high-quality pre-K, offer before- and after-school programs, encourage parental involvement through family resource centers, and meet the needs of students in the communities where they live.
Alexander said that a critical area of focus for the state should be raising standards and accountability. She said that the adoption of the Common Core and the use of annual high-stakes assessments are essential to reform.
“We can’t improve what we can’t measure,” she said.
Cirasuolo made a pitch for a proposal to personalize student learning that his organization unveiled in 2011. “To meet new expectations for public education the whole enterprise has to be transformed,” he said. “We must reverse the relationship between time and learning so that learning is the constant and time is the variable.”
“There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution to improving public education,” Williams said. “We have to look at the needs of students and families in each individual school and reach out to all stakeholders in a community.”