A recent story in the CT Mirror described a presentation to reporters a few weeks ago by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the largest teachers’ union, in which union leaders attempted to expose the spending practices of charter schools. The problem is that the report the CEA was referencing was deliberately misleading –seeking to villainize charter schools during a tight budget year in which education funding will be a key issue.
When Brown v. Board of Education was passed and public schools across the country slowly trod toward desegregation, many pro-segregation parents enrolled their children in private schools rather than allow them to share a classroom with black students. We can hear echoes of this sentiment in Connecticut School Board Chair Allan Taylor’s opposition to redistricting students in Fairfield.
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.
From my perspective we have two critical points in the current Connecticut education crisis that must be dealt with first during the General Assembly’s 2017 session: One, the Common Core State Standards — developmentally inappropriate for many of our children, especially those in the elementary years. And Two: Measuring our children using the new state mastery test, which lacks psychometric test validation and reliability.
In a few days the Mastery Examination Task Force will be submitting its Final Report and Recommendations to the Connecticut Legislature’s Education Committee which had asked for a study of student assessment practices in our public schools. Having monitored the progress of this task force during its one-and-a-half years of meetings, I contend that their findings were predetermined at or even before the task force began its deliberations.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher wrote in his September school funding decision of the “alarming” condition of education in the state’s neediest districts, citing that “[A]mong the poorest, most of the students are being let down by patronizing and illusory degrees.” He has a point – one that extends far beyond Connecticut and our poorest students. The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, found that nearly two-thirds of 12th-graders in the U.S. perform below proficiency in reading, and three-quarters perform below proficiency in both math and science.
A recent story described concerns raised over the State Board of Education’s rapid approval of a new teacher training program. According to that story, members of the Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force are frustrated with the level of information that they had received about the program prior to its approval. These concerns, I am sure, can be worked out among our branches of government. What is more important is ensuring that Connecticut continues with its efforts to solve the longstanding problem of minority teacher recruitment.
In his historic and sweeping decision on Connecticut’s broken school funding system, Judge Thomas Moukawsher announced something we have been shouting from the rooftops for years – many of Connecticut’s kids are not getting the education they deserve and was promised to them under law. They’re languishing. Their rights are being violated. It’s unconstitutional, it’s unfair and finally it seems people have woken up and are taking notice.
Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s recent ruling on education is creating an opportunity to improve our approach to K-12 education in Connecticut. As we set goals for our students, and how to best reach those goals, we must also take time to consider our teachers. Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other factor in a student’s schooling. It is my hope that lawmakers think about how we can increase the number of local teachers who are passionate about learning as well as excited and prepared to support the needs of our students.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m asking you to think about what that actually means. Specifically, I want you to think about the thousands of young Latinos who are in our schools right now, learning a new language, a new educational system, and a new culture. Kids in the classroom who are learning English as a second language aren’t just struggling to learn a new way to communicate. These kids are trying to figure out what it really means to be an American.
Since implementation of the new teacher evaluation system by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature, I have believed opting out of standardized testing was a student right. I now see it as a civic responsibility.
Deep in Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s decision in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding v. Rell is troubling language regarding funding for students with severe disabilities. Judge Moukawsher is correct that identifying students with disabilities remains imprecise and subjective. And yes, school funding issues are negatively and disparately impacting students with disabilities. However, the language Judge Moukawsher uses in his ruling regarding determining educational benefits for students with the most severe disabilities is disturbing at best.