Agreement Incorporates Teachers' Voices in Reform Efforts
WASHINGTON—Today American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten congratulated Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and the state's legislative and education leaders on working with teachers, parents and the community to reach a landmark agreement on statewide public education reform.
"This education reform agreement is a win for Connecticut students, their families and their educators. It is the culmination of months of hard work, and I'm pleased that we worked closely with Sharon Palmer and AFT Connecticut, the governor, the Legislature and others throughout this process. Although the process was heated at times, Gov. Malloy kept his word that this was about improving education for students, and that teachers' professional experience had to be respected and their voices heard. No one wants better schools for our kids more than the teachers who work hard every day to prepare students for success. On Teacher Appreciation Day, it is especially gratifying that Connecticut's leaders have incorporated teachers' input into this agreement.
"This reform agreement is an important step toward improving Connecticut's public schools, and I thank the governor and the Legislature for rejecting the special interests promoting a divisive agenda that tried to pit kids against their teachers. The agreement also recognizes that it takes more than just good teachers by investing in early childhood and health and community programs for Connecticut kids. This victory is not only a significant step toward improving Connecticut's public education system, but it's also an important step forward in affirming the value of the teachers who commit themselves to helping students achieve their dreams and ambitions."
Highlights of the Connecticut education reform agreement include:
- Expands early childhood education by creating 1,000 new early education slots in low-income communities. According to a recent Stanford University study, the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students has increased by 40 percent since the 1960s. It is now double the gap between blacks and whites.
Investments in early childhood education are critical to eliminating this achievement gap. In addition, for every dollar a state spends on preschool for a child, the state will get back $60 to $300 from increased earnings and a decreased need for public services over that child's lifetime.
- Provides support for reading instruction and creates a literacy pilot program in 10 communities. By the time children from high-income families start school, they have spent about 400 more hours than disadvantaged children on literacy activities.
- Creates a new teacher evaluation system that will be piloted in 8 to 10 school districts. The evaluation system will ensure that professional development for teachers will be effective and targeted to instructional needs.
The agreement also will allow Connecticut to expand the groundbreaking evaluation system pioneered in New Haven. Nicholas Kristof recently called the city's efforts "jaw-dropping" and wrote in the New York Times that "New Haven has arguably become ground zero for school reform in America because it is transforming the system with the full cooperation of the union."
- Simplifies and streamlines due process for teachers. The AFT has led the way in developing a fair, transparent and quick procedure for addressing accusations of teacher wrongdoing while guaranteeing due process; Connecticut has adopted many of the same principles that the AFT worked with Kenneth Feinberg to develop.
- Creates a network of low-performing schools and brings teachers' voice to the process by which these schools will be improved. This new network will allow struggling schools to have new resources and will be constructed in collaboration with teachers.
This is similar to the Chancellor's District developed in New York City, where the district and teachers union negotiated a series of successful reforms. As a result of three years of focused effort, extended-time schools gained 7.7 points in the percentage of students meeting reading standards compared with 2.9 points for the system overall. Gains in math followed a similar pattern.
- Creates 20 school health clinics and 10 school community centers. The AFT has long been a proponent of the community school model—ensuring that children and families receive healthcare services, meals, counseling and other services they need.