|The Connecticut Council For Education Reform takes aim against the excuse of poverty, as the excuse most often given by those opposing education reform in Connecticut. Very interesting comparisons are drawn between our neighboring states of Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Below is an the from the Council dated 4/1/12 :
Today, we are taking a look at an argument frequently made in opposition to education reform: namely, that Connecticut’s achievement gap – which is the largest in the nation – is due to poverty, and therefore, the education system, and the adults within it, cannot be held responsible for providing a high-quality education to all students.While poverty and a lack of parenting are used as convenient scapegoats to explain the achievement gap in Connecticut, Massachusetts has skipped the blame game, and worked on addressing the issue instead. In 2010, Massachusetts and Connecticut had almost exactly the same percentages of students who were low-income (34.2% in Massachusetts vs. 34.4% in Connecticut). Nonetheless, on national math assessments in 2011, Massachusetts’ low-income 4th graders scored 2nd in the nation – while Connecticut’s low-income students scored 48th. This difference in performance between Massachusetts’ low-income students and Connecticut’s equates to about 1.5 grade levels.
In fact, the low-income students in all of our neighboring states outperform Connecticut’s low-income students. For instance, New Jersey’s low-income students, who make up 33% of their student population, ranked 14th on 4th grade national math assessments – again, as compared to Connecticut’s rank of 48th in the nation, and Massachusetts’s rank of 2nd. Connecticut’s low-income students not only score below all of our neighboring states, but also score below states like Mississippi and Tennessee.
We think folks would be hard-pressed to argue that low-income students right over the border in Massachusetts or New Jersey face very different circumstances at home than the low-income students in Connecticut. So, what actions have our neighboring states taken to address their achievement gaps that Connecticut hasn’t? Put bluntly, they have adopted education reform policies very similar to the ones proposed in Governor Malloy’s original education reform bill. They have adopted or implemented policies that evaluate teachers on the basis of student performance, that rank schools and districts within a tiered intervention framework, and that provide the Commissioner with the authority to intervene in the lowest performing schools and districts.
We cannot continue to blame the current state of education in Connecticut on poverty. It’s time to make a change, and to stop pretending it can’t be done when other states with the same demographics as ours have already proven we can, and need to, do much better. Governor Malloy’s original plan called for policies that would have improved our education system for both low-income students and their wealthier peers – who are also falling behind other states, we might add! (We’ll explore this more in our next blog post). But the Governor’s plan has been severely diluted by the Education Committee’s approval of disappointing substitute language in Senate Bill 24.
We think it’s time to stop using the excuse that our schools can’t be held responsible for ensuring that low-income children learn and are held to high expectations. We think it’s time to start holding our schools accountable for providing a high-quality education to all students – as all of our neighboring states have taken significant strides in doing.
If you agree, tell your elected official what changes you think are needed so all of Connecticut’s children are provided with the high-quality education they deserve.
The following article appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Edition of The Hour. Both city and state representatives, along with NEF, the PTOC and Red Apples have continued to voice concerns over the inherent flaws in the state’s current Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Representative Gail Lavielle, even went so far as to propose an amendment to correct the formula, which penalizes communities such as Norwalk, with purportedly high grand list property values but low median income.
Below is the article:
Changes to ECS formula proposed, failed, but scored a win
NORWALK — While the amendment to change the Education Cost Sharing formula failed, its sponsor is scoring it a victory in Norwalk’s fight to get equitable funding.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle’s, R-143, amendment would have allowed cities with a significant difference between its net grand list and its median income to decrease by 10 percent the net grand list’s value in the formula’s calculation.
“I thought there was good discussion around it and it has been flagged as an important issue,” Lavielle said. “And from that point of view I’m pleased we had this discussion. I think we’ve put Norwalk’s ECS issue on the radar screen.”
Critics of the current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula say the weight of the grand list negatively affects cities with high property values and low median incomes, Norwalk included. That disparity makes various cities and towns seem more affluent than they already are. Lavielle called Norwalk’s lack of ECS?funding a “severe and persistent inequity.”
In her amendment, any town in the top 25 percent in property values, but in the bottom 50 percent in median income would be available fro the 10 percent deduction. According to Lavielle, this would raise Norwalk’s ECS funding from $10 million to $19 million.
There was some vocal opposition to the amendment from, most scathingly from Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-18, who said it would “artificially reduce the wealth of some communities” who have demonstrated their ability to pay through its net grand list and it “runs directly counter to the dictates of Horton v Meskill” the court case that established ECS?funding.
State?Sen. Toni Nathaniel Harp, D-10, said the amendment raised a good point.
“I do think that Rep. Lavielle … (has) pointed out one of the dichotomies that exists in Connecticut,” Harp said “It really is kind of a difficult conundrum that we’re in as a state.”
Harp said she did not believe that the disparity should be fixed through ECS?formula changes but did feel “we have an obligation to do something about it.”
Lavielle proposed the amendment during discussion of HB 5014, a bill which contains adjustments to the biennial budget during a meeting of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee.