In the State

Does Connecticut Ever Follow Through? Another Reform Voted Down Before It’s Implemented

State Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s sweeping ruling last fall in the CCJEF v. Rell case was supposed to be a “game-changer.”  It was supposed “upend” Connecticut’s dysfunctional school system, but it seems the legislature is determined to continue business as usual.

To see what I mean, look no further than the General Assembly’s unanimous decision to push forward a bill that loosens graduation requirements.

The Connecticut Mirror has the story:

“Legislators have repeatedly put off implementing tougher graduation requirements after adopting them back in 2010 as the state was competing for federal Race to the Top funding. The legislation required students to earn additional credits in mathematics, science and foreign language; complete a senior project; and pass exams in algebra, geometry, biology, American history and English to graduate.

The increased requirements were supposed to begin with the class of 2018, but after the state failed to win the millions in federal aid that would have paid to hire teachers for the added courses, the state has regularly pushed back implementing the requirements.

This year the legislature is expected to go further.

Legislation that won unanimous approval in the Senate last Thursday does away with the exit exams and senior project and broadens the description of courses students must take to graduate. It also pushes back for another two years the requirement that students earn 25 credits to graduate instead of the current 20. The senior project would be replaced with a “mastery-based diploma assessment” which is “achieved through educational experiences and opportunities that provide flexible and multiple pathways to learning” such as career or technical education, virtual learning, internship or independent study.”

Remember this decision comes after Judge Moukawsher’s railed against the state’s lax graduation requirements, ruling them unconstitutional.

He wrote, “state graduation and advancement standards are so loose that in struggling cities the neediest are leaving schools with diplomas but without the education, we promise them.”

And there’s real life data to back up this indictment – for example, during the trial, Bridgeport’s former Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz admitted that a student could graduate illiterate.

For more on state college readiness data, I wrote an article looking at the numbers a few months back: Here’s a link

This is a pattern

This has become a pattern, and not just for graduation requirements.

It never fails. The state promises to reform education policy, votes to reform legislation, then before those reforms can be fully implemented, the General Assembly or the State Board of Education backs out.

This same scenario played out in April with the state’s teacher evaluation system.

Five years after the teacher evaluation system was established, the Connecticut Board of Education voted to remove state mastery exams from evaluations, removing one of the only objective measurements of student growth. This was passed after years of pushing back the implementation of the evaluation system.

So, without testing whether reform works, the state continually backtracks. Even in the face of court rulings.

It’s no wonder that progress is slow. It’s no wonder that we’ve known for years that this state has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country, yet we haven’t made any meaningful progress in closing that gap — and, we will continue to make little progress if this pattern persists.

What do you think?

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