Massachusetts vs. Connecticut educational success — one man’s experience

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas’s three-part series about spending, education reform and student achievement in Massachusetts and Connecticut provides an outstanding review of the progress of education in both states over the past 25 years.   I see the series from the perspective of having been Associate Commissioner for Finance and Accountability in Massachusetts from 1993 to 1998, Superintendent of the Fall River (MA) Public Schools from 2005 to 2009, and Superintendent of the New London Public Schools in Connecticut from 2009 to 2014.

The constitutional right to education is long overdue

Public school funding has shrunk over the past decade. School discipline rates reached historic highs. Large achievement gaps persist. And the overall performance of our nation’s students falls well below our international peers. These bleak numbers beg the question: Don’t students have a constitutional right to something better? Many Americans assume that federal law protects the right to education. Why wouldn’t it? All 50 state constitutions provide for education. The same is true in 170 other countries. Yet, the word “education” does not appear in the United States Constitution, and federal courts have rejected the idea that education is important enough that it should be protected anyway.

Urban school districts still don’t have equal access to digital tools and education

I teach at Bulkeley High School in Hartford and so often I find students who lack even the most basic digital literacy skills. Asking students to log into an online platform will take 15 minutes. Organizing documents in Google Drive will take even longer. These are the basic skills which a governmental commission has frequently reiterated from the year 2005 to the present. If this objective has stood for 12 years –the standard measure of time for a student to be enrolled in K to 12 education –– why is it that my students are still coming to me without even the most basic skills in digital literacy?

Connecticut’s policies cause egregious racial disparities among children

“We all do better when we all do better.” For nearly two decades, the phrase coined in 1999 by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) has reminded us that our nation is strengthened by shared prosperity. Amid escalating conversations around race, immigration, and disparities in outcomes for children by race and immigration status, the idea that our collective future depends on the success of every child is more important than ever.

New London’s Columbus statue and cultural Marxists

Why is Christopher Columbus, a man born in 1491, whose life is memorialized throughout the country, a focus of collective discontent? Why are politicians, political activists and academia in New London and other progressive cities across the United States blaming him for the actions of people who lived years after his death? Why is Columbus accused of spreading diseases, committing genocide and inventing slavery?

Early school start times can harm Connecticut’s students

There is a serious public health issue that is harming many high school students across our state.  It may be causing them to be ill, have higher rates of depression and substance abuse, obesity, car accidents and sports injuries.  It is reducing their academic performance in the classroom and on standardized tests.  What is causing this crisis?  Schools that start too early in the morning.

What next for Connecticut education?

Teachers wear many hats. Instructor. Mentor. Advocate. Mystery shopper typically isn’t one of them. But for this teacher and Stratford City Councilwoman, my past life as a mystery shopper has been instructive and complementary endeavor. It taught me a lot about what I believe in today and reinforced vital lessons, like the value of hard work and persistence, and the importance of strong writing and critical thinking skills.

Focus educational help on improving minority high school graduation

Government funding for underprivileged students to attend college is not an effective way to close the education gap because it does not address the core problem, which is that many low-income students never make it to graduation in the first place. The government should be providing students with the resources they need in order to graduate from high school and be successful when they go to college, instead of providing a donation toward a college fund for students who made it to graduation.

We need higher standards of high school competence, not looser

It is truly sad that the legislature has voted and sent to the governor a bill to loosen graduation standards. Frankly, I am aghast that the children who will most likely suffer are low income and minority children. If we look statewide at test results either on state measures of proficiency or national measures, the children who have the lowest scores are often the same children.

Hartford teacher: I have no choice but to speak up

I look forward to a day when quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students is not just a vision, but a reality. Until that day comes, I know I have an obligation to use my voice as a classroom teacher to inform legislator’s decisions and help drive progress in the right direction.

Teacher evaluation in Connecticut: Let’s finally get it right

An editorial in The Hartford Courant  (April, 23,2017) entitled “ Back to Squishy Teacher Evals” argued for using the scores of students’ standardized tests to evaluate teachers.  It seems so neat and tidy. Teachers produce a product (a test score). We take a look at the product. We then judge if the teacher is competent or not, based on that product.  If only it were that simple.