Time for Education Reform
From the President & CEO
While heated political debates can tempt the observer to cynical conclusions, the passions that polarize can only arise when the participants are truly invested in the topic at hand. Such was often the case in the recently concluded education reform debate in the Connecticut legislature. At the extremes, these assertions might variously have suggested that the reform agenda was anti-teacher, or that teachers don’t really care about students. Either version in any permutation was of course far from the truth. Indeed, there are many areas of agreement on elements of reform, which resulted in significant revisions to education policy that will be good for Connecticut students. For example, provisions for increased teacher training are in direct response to 85% of teachers who say professional development is among the most important tools they need to foster student achievement, according to a 2012 Scholastic/Gates Foundation survey. Here in Connecticut 71% of teachers turn out to welcome performance assessments, when given the training resources to improve weaker areas identified in their evaluations. The Science Center is witness to this, observing the enthusiasm with which teachers embrace the opportunity to become more effective in our professional development programs. After all, good science teachers will be the beneficiaries of the State Department of Education’s increased focus on science, technology, engineering and math, which is crucial in a state where just 35% of eighth graders passed an optional national science exam.
It’s appropriate that much of the reform discussion focused on the achievement gap among urban and suburban students. But it’s also important to remember that even our suburban schools do not compete well on a global scale, particularly in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Our nation’s achievement gap relative to competing economies is just as serious, which is why the governor advocated a much broader education reform that is also necessary. Among other things, a comprehensive plan to better prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st century is also critical to improving Connecticut’s fortunes in future federal education funding competitions, such as Race to the Top.
Another important aspect of the reform plan involves various forms of intervention that will be available to the state to help turn around our most troubled schools. While the governance mechanics of this are not trivial, the bottom line in our experience can be dramatic improvement in teaching and morale, family involvement and student results. For example, Hartford’s Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School paired strong leadership with quality facilities and resources such as intensive professional development for teachers to deliver a success culture and double-digit Connecticut Mastery Test increases for city students in every key subject.
The beneficiaries of academic success are not just the students, their families and their communities, but the teachers who will carry this achievement as a personal and professional legacy the likes of which anyone would be proud. These are the kinds of best-practice models the reform initiative aims to make available to educators and students in all the most challenged schools, and they must be implemented at every level as rapidly as possible.
Matt Fleury of Hartford is President & CEO of the Connecticut Science Center
May 2012 - inside this issue
- Shaping the Next Generation of Scientists and Innovators
- School Turnaround Success
- One Parent's Perspective
- Time for Education Reform
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UTC and Hartford Public Schools partner with CSC to meet the demand for STEM education programs.