When the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution demanding that Connecticut commissioners of education have the same certification as superintendents of schools, they ignored one important point: It is not the job of an education commissioner to directly supervise teachers and support staff and run an individual school.
It is the job of an education commissioner to run a massive department devoted to improving education for kids.
The resolution, in case you don’t get the implication, is a shot across Connection Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s bow and, by extension, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Pryor is not a teacher, nor is he a school administrator. Does that mean he’s incapable of understanding the complexities of a massive government agency or creating guidelines for implementing improvements? Of course not.
It does mean that he has no preconceived ideas about what works and what doesn’t. He’s able to advocate for the thousands of kids in Connecticut schools with an open mind. He’s able to be creative, ingenuitive, flexible.
And the proof is in the pudding.
When the results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released in May, the state’s progress under Pryor became apparent. Achievement gaps are closing.
“Connecticut’s results show definitive progress in narrowing the achievement gap between black and white students in reading,” a release said. “This is the first time that, in Connecticut, the black-white gap narrowed by a statistically significant amount in any grade across two consecutive NAEP administrations. And when compared to 2009, student performance remained either steady or increased for black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, and special needs students in both tested subjects.”
As Malloy said then, this success would be impossible “without the hard work of the people on the front lines – our state’s teachers,” but considering the incredible improvements Connecticut has seen since Pryor took office only a few years ago, a good commissioner means something, too.
So the union needs to ask itself a very important question: What’s more important, posturing during an election year, placing arbitrary rules around who can and cannot be a commissioner or making sure every kid in the state has access to a great education?