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Education Leader Seeks $25 Million For Low-Performing School Districts

Pryor says proposal is aimed at improving academic progress

Kathleen Megan

November 02, 2011

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is seeking $25 million from the state to help turn around low-performing school districts and vocational, magnet and charter schools.

Pryor, who emphasized that his request is only a "proposal," told the state Board of Education Wednesday that he hopes to "shore up low-performing schools and create high-performing schools in the vicinity. …This is an effort to at least offer a placeholder for further discussion with [the Office of Policy and Management]. … At best, we would hope to yield some dollars from this request."

The request came up after Pryor presented his own grim analysis of the performance of Connecticut fourth- and eighth-graders on a national standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

"The overall picture is bleak in a significant sense," Pryor told the board. "We should be seeing growth where we're seeing stagnation…"

Of particular concern he said is the gap in achievement between students who are white or upper-income and those who are low-income or black or Hispanic.

"We are not seeing progress in narrowing the achievement gap in most instances," Pryor said, "and in fact we rank among the worst states in the nation on the achievement gap."

While the proposal for $25 million was developed well before the national assessment test results were released Tuesday, Pryor said the two are not unrelated. His goal would be to "optimize performance" of students living in low-performing districts.

He said the $25 million could be used in many ways — from installing new technology in an existing school to creating new, smaller schools within an existing plant.

He said he hopes to use capital funds for this purpose, perhaps reallocating under-utilized or dormant capital funds or seeking new funds, perhaps from another department or pool that is dormant.

"The purpose of today's action, which should not be over-interpreted, is to inquire of OPM whether in fact there would be possibilities along these lines," he said. It may be, he said, that "it's just impractical, but we wanted to put forward a priority of ours to see whether there is an opportunity."

During his presentation on the test results, Pryor used a map of the United States, showing eighth-graders' math scores. Pryor noted that 10 states outperformed Connecticut on the test.

"Take a look at perhaps the south-central most gigantic state and wonder to yourself … where do we intend to be relative to Texas?" he asked. Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and Texas were among the states that outperformed Connecticut eighth-graders on that test.

He asked, "Where ought Connecticut be among the 50 states on the map?"

After his presentation, Estelle Lopez, a board member said, "everything we do here has to be directed to eliminating the differences that exist in Connecticut."

Lopez said that many times she tells her Latino friends: "Move away from Connecticut because it seems to be Latino students do better in other states and when they come here, something happens to them."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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