Governor Dannel P. Malloy told a room full of education advocates and leaders that education reform is the “great issue of our time,” and “We must invest in early childhood education.”
“To make some of the progress we need to make in early childhood and teacher improvement, some additional monies are going to have to be expended. So, I believe that districts, and/or the state, are going to have to spend more money,” the governor told reporters at a day-long education workshop at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on Jan. 5.
More than 350 people attended the workshop to hear education reform ideas that can help shape legislation for the upcoming legislative session.
Malloy told the crowd that Connecticut has lost its number one ranking in K-12, college education, and degrees granted. He added, “We’ve seen enough failure.”
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor kicked off the workshop by telling attendees that Connecticut must focus on student achievement and performance because the state is lagging behind.
“Connecticut is used to being at the top, and we can get there again. We have an opportunity to make real progress in the first quarter of the year,” he said, referring to the start of the legislative session and the governor’s call to legislators to focus on education reform in Connecticut.
Pryor emphasized the need for change. He referred to a new, not yet released, State Department of Education (SDE) survey of the state’s public school superintendents. The majority of superintendents said the SDE is not helping to close the state’s achievement gap.
In order to do that, Malloy said we need to measure what success is in the classroom. The governor, who reports to have never performed well on standardized tests himself, said, “Standardized tests should not be the sole measurement of teachers’ success, student success and school success.”
Panelists participating in a workshop on teacher quality agreed that teachers must be evaluated on multiple measures-a proposal strongly supported by CEA and unveiled in the Association’s reform plan called A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement, released at a news conference on Jan. 3.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and a panel member said, “One of AFT’s most famous members, Albert Einstein, said it best, ‘Not everything that counts can be counted.'”
Richard Laine, former director of education at the Wallace Foundation, and panelist on excellent teachers and school leaders, said it’s not just about having the best educators you must also have great principals.
“You can’t turn around a low performing school unless you have quality teachers and effective leadership,” he said.
According to Laine, most principals believe their top priority is to provide a safe learning environment. He says that’s important but the top priority for principals is to create the best learning environment possible and to support instructional teaching and development.
In fact, he said the number one reason teachers move into low performing schools is not for more money, but to work in an environment with successful school leadership.
More than half of the state’s school superintendents say programs in place now don’t adequately prepare new teachers. And only 7.5 percent believe the SDE has a clear plan to develop, attract and retain the best teachers in Connecticut. CEA’s reform plan calls for reforming how teachers are recruited, prepared, and retained. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of current students studying to enter the teaching profession say they are not prepared for the classroom.
“It’s not their fault. We didn’t prepare them properly,” said Kanter.
Nearly 1.6 million teachers are expected to retire over the next decade, and Kanter says, “Connecticut has the stakeholders in place now that can drive education reform forward and build alignment between K-12 and college.”
Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, spoke about how the world has changed demographically, technically, and globally, and said Connecticut institutions must also change and move into the 21st century.
“All social institutions were built for another time,” said Levine, “And we are the generation that must make the changes and move teaching and learning forward.”
Robert Villanova, director of the executive leadership program at UConn’s Neag School of Education, said clinical experience in the community is an important element for teachers, but we need to these experiences better and richer.
“We need to find ways to support internships that are not available now.” But he added, “Those internships must have specific expectations and requirements to provide new teachers with the experiences they need to meet the needs of students in today’s classrooms.”
The CEA Student Program is working to do just that: provide unique opportunities in professional development, community outreach, leadership, and networking to future teachers all over the state. These opportunities are meant to support and supplement a future teacher’s preparation and entry into the teaching profession.
“Teachers need to prepare for the populations they are going to teach and intercultural competence is critical,” said Levine, who urged all colleges to add Charlotte Danielson’s books on teacher evaluation and professional development to their curriculum.
Malloy said 90 percent of Connecticut students are educated in public schools and we need to do a better job preparing teachers and working with them through their careers.