Speakers at a forum at the on Monday thanked Gov. Dannel Malloy for seeking to improve Connecticut's schools, but were sometimes critical of the ideas in the governor’s proposal.
“This is what’s clear: the status quo is not working in our state,” said Malloy. “We have school districts who are failing 40 to 60 percent of their students.”
Malloy has given a 163-page bill to the Connecticut General Assembly proposing measures to improve low-performing schools in the state. Under the plan, would receive $810,000 by July 1 to invest in measures to improve student achievement.
The plan encourages districts to establish charter schools, with a state contribution of $3,000 per student for district-run schools. The proposal also calls for 500 extra spots for early childhood education and 22.5 percent of teacher evaluation to be based on standardized testing results.
This last point has led to some raucous stops on the education tour. The New Haven Independent reported that several teachers booed and heckled Malloy at a stop there last week.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman introduced the forum by declaring, “I understand that we’ve got a lot of great teachers in the audience. And a lot of them are not happy.”
When Wyman suggested that the teachers were not happy about tenure proposals, though, she was met with denials. However, some speakers did bring the topic up. Clare Powers said she was concerned with the possible effect Malloy’s plan would have on tenure and teachers’ pay scales and was applauded when she questioned why the practices found to be successful in charter schools could not be implemented in public schools with existing staff.
“One of my frustrations is we’re not doing that…We’re basically doing the same thing every year and ending up with the same results,” Malloy said.
Rose Ann Hardy, a teacher and member of the East Lyme Board of Selectmen, said that Malloy’s proposal aims to make teacher evaluations equitable but questioned whether this would be possible. She said some teachers bear more responsibilities than others.
Malloy said the plan aims to establish a model where such differences are taken into account and teachers are measured by the same standard across the state.
“This gives us the framework to establish that and to implement it, so a teacher in Stamford is evaluated the same way as a teacher in Griswold,” said Malloy.
Maureen Brigham, a teacher at the Winthrop School, asked what the role of the parents would be in Malloy’s plan. She questioned whether it would include programs to support the parents in low-income families.
“We need more help,” said Brigham. “We need more social workers or we need to empower these moms to feel more important.”
Malloy said his proposal includes additional funding for medical programs as well as early education initiatives that include parental programs.
Don Blevins, the past president of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and a former member of the Waterford Board of Education, said he felt the proposal unfairly assumes that charter schools are superior to public schools. However, he also agreed with Malloy that reform efforts need to begin.
“I think it’s very important this year to seize the opportunity to at least start down the road of education reform,” said Blevins.
Malloy said his plan is a starting point, and that other issues such as learning disabilities need to be addressed at a later date. He said the proposal still needs to go through the legislative process, and that residents’ concerns will be taken into account during that time.
“If somebody hadn’t moved this year, we wouldn’t be having this discussion for another year, or a year after that,” said Malloy.