What I learned from watching three hours of the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education:
1. Betsy DeVos demonstrated a lack of any understanding about student assessment.
2. Betsy DeVos said that permitting guns in schools is a decision that should be left up to individual schools.
3. Betsy DeVos did not commit to preschool for all children.
If one wants to understand Connecticut’s budget woes, one need to look no further than its universal preschool strategy. And in reviewing the governor’s and legislators’ budget deficit mitigation plans, it was disappointing to see that they opted to further erode the state’s early care system and industry, rather than make smarter choices that preserve both.
Connecticut has some of the nation’s largest achievement gaps between white students and students of color. To close them, Connecticut’s schools must do a much better job of serving low-income, black, and Hispanic students. But, because one-third to one-half of the achievement gap exists before children start school, efforts to close those gaps must also start earlier, in the preschool and early childhood years.
It takes a lot to oppose the Common Core State Standards when they are said to offer reform, rigor, high academic standards approved by states and matched by other high-powered nations, a guarantee to close the achievement gap and college and career readiness! What red-blooded American could say no to this promise?
Before students of all colors can succeed equally in Connecticut’s public schools, we must be bluntly honest about why disparities exist. An achievement gap would exist if we gave every student equal opportunities and some children still failed to achieve. In a myriad ways, we do not give all our children the same opportunities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in school discipline policies that exclude children from the classroom.
The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and the Gov. Dannel Malloy recently announced the first round of winners in the Smart Start initiative. And while they acknowledged that many school districts opted not to apply, they fail to acknowledge the glaring truth about the reason, i.e. this is a bad initiative and a bad prescription for universal preschool in Connecticut. And if Smart Start proponents continue to advance this initiative, the towns not selected will not be the only losers in this equation. Children
Smart Start proponents are advancing the idea that access to preschool education in the public schools with a certified bachelor degree teacher is the fix to the largest achievement gap in the US, while ignoring that every teacher in Connecticut’s K-12 system, where the gap exists, is certified with advanced degrees themselves.
Fairfield County, a region marked by sharp disparities in income and in urban and suburban life, faces particular challenges in assuring all its residents a quality education. Today, a special report, “Education, Diversity and Change in Fairfield County,” explores the issue through in-depth policy reporting, interactive maps and charts, photo galleries and opinion pieces written by teachers from the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University.