by Charles A. Monagan
Feb 28, 2012
01:12 PMOn Connecticut
If you've been following the headlines across the state in recent days, you may have noticed the storm that's been brewing over Gov. Dannel Malloy's proposed education reforms, particularly the controversy over how teacher tenure would be achieved and maintained under the new guidelines. The battle lines have formed pretty quickly; the governor and those looking for major changes in education both to save money and help reduce the achievement gap on one side, teachers and their supporters who say that they're being made scapegoats for a bigger agenda, and that answers could be found with more funding and less drastic measures, on the other.
To state the obvious, it's a tricky issue. As a taxpayer with children enrolled in public schools, I understand the governor's points—I have seen unmotivated teachers who seem content with the status quo and collecting a paycheck for doing nothing beyond showing up and putting forth the minimal effort. On the flipside, I know some terrific, dedicated educators—like my sister, a reading specialist and a former Teacher of the Year in Bridgeport—who have given everything they can in the face of severely restricted resources and very little appreciation or salary, especially compared to superintendents and other upper-tier administrators.
I think both sides can agree that the system needs some changes. The achievement gap in Connecticut is the largest in the nation, in part driven wayward by the efforts to comply with the infamous "No Child Left Behind" act. I am no fan of that legislation, as it has forced school systems to focus year-round on teaching to the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) to protect school funding.
The CMTs are this month—my kids, both of whom will be taking the tests—tell me that they have no homework for the next few weeks as they need to have their minds clear. All major school work and learning is essentially being put on hold so that they aren't overloaded or stressed, in the hopes that it will allow them to focus on the tests and help raise their test scores. In essence, weeks of precious learning time is being sacrificed to make sure that everyone will do well on the test, the schools will pass and continue to get their funding.
Does anyone else see the flaw here?
From what I can tell, everyone seems to agree that something needs to be done in terms of improving education. If it's dealing with tenure or early childhood education or funding, let's hope our leaders and our educators—two groups we look to for intelligence and guidance—can resolve this is the smartest way possible.