Thursday, November 1, 2012

At the Center of CT Ed Reform, Teacher Morale on the Rise

For years now, the defenders of a failed status quo have crowed that education reform – particularly the school improvement efforts passed this year by the Connecticut General Assembly – was bad for teachers.

For months, we watched as folks yelled and screamed and swore at Governor Dannel P. Malloy, opposing needed changes around issues such as teacher quality and school turnaround.  The vitriol during the spring in opposition to reform, in the name of teachers, was stunningly large.

So it was surprising, and heartwarming, to see the headlines recently from the Connecticut Education Association trumpeting that teacher morale was “through the roof” in Bridgeport.

Why?  In many ways, Bridgeport is ground zero for education reform in Connecticut.  Just look at the facts.
  •         Bridgeport’s mayor, Bill Finch, is one of the hardest-working elected officials in the state looking to bring change and improvement to his public schools
  •         Bridgeport’s superintendent, Paul Vallas, is one of the nation’s leading school reformers and, in less than a year, has enacted one of the most aggressive reform packages the state has ever seen
  •         Bridgeport is piloting Connecticut’s new educator evaluation system, where teachers and principals will be evaluated under a model that makes student learning the top priority
  •         Bridgeport is now part of the Commissioner’s Network, with the Curiale School being part of a major effort by the state to turn around our lowest-performing schools
  •     Bridgeport is also part of the Alliance District, where it will receive millions from the state to enact real, meaningful education reforms focused on improving student performance

Despite all of this reform, despite all of this change, despite all of this focus on student performance and achievement, teacher morale is strong.  And at the Bridgeport school that is experiencing the most change and is impacted the most by this year’s reform bill – Curiale – morale is up, as is student attendance (at least according to the CEA).

We all know that we can’t fix our schools without the full support of our teachers.  They are the ones on the front lines, the ones responsible for enacting change and ensuring all kids – regardless of race, family income, or zip code – are learning.  They need to be partners in the process.  And early reports from Bridgeport indicate we are seeing that partnership.

But this also demonstrates that one can be both pro-reform and pro-teacher.  Bridgeport is experiencing more education reform and is feeling the impact of the state’s education reform efforts more than any other community in the state.  With leaders pushing for reform, with a new teacher evaluation system, and with intense efforts to turn around the city’s lowest-performing schools, Bridgeport teachers are responding positively.

Now we must look at how to continue this road to reform, so that other educators across the state can also feel a boost in their morale as the improve outcomes for all of our students.

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