brought his education reform tour to Berlin Wednesday, and told those who attended his town hall meeting that his plan would not strip under-performing educators of their teaching certifications and tenure.
“You wouldn’t lose your right to teach and you wouldn’t lose your tenure,” Malloy told about 100 people who turned out for the meeting Malloy held at Catherine M. McGee Middle School. “In this debate a lot of people said I want to do away with tenure, that’s just not true. If you’re a tenured teacher and your performance starts to slip, your school district can’t get rid of you. They have to work with you.”
The meeting was part of Malloy’s statewide tour to promote his , parts of which have come under fire from teachers and their unions.
Organizers of the town meeting took names of audience members who wanted to pose questions to Malloy and then selected 10 to address the governor. One of those selected was , a Berlin teacher who was selected as Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year last year.
Bosso told Malloy he’s concerned that the governor’s education proposal would hurt teacher morale and impact learning.
Those who support the idea of tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, Bosso said, don’t understand how putting teachers under such a microscope can demoralize them.
“Regardless of ones views of this debate this has to be understood by all parties and stakeholders. We have to realize the impact of the feeling of demoralization of teachers. When teacher morale declines for whatever the reason teaching suffers. As a teacher I’m so much more than my students’ test scores.”
Malloy responded that while a district like Berlin has good test scores, others do not.
“There’s a reality about you; you’re in a great school system whose test scores are exceeding the statewide average,” Malloy told Bosso. “But next door in New Britain that’s not the case. Just down the road in Hartford that’s not the case. We need to find something that lights the fire under all of us to do something. If we lose 50 percent of the kids in New Britain, if we continue down that road, if we keep saying we can wait, if we make no change, what do we end up with? I want more of you and I want you to be rewarded for what you do.
“The biggest morale problem in schools is when everybody’s not pulling their weight. Don’t blame me for bad morale, because I’m not the person who told you I was going to take away certification.”
Fran Gallagher, a retired New Britain teacher, later took Malloy to task for suggesting New Britain doesn’t have teachers as good as Bosso. “There are many wonderful teachers” in the neighboring town, she said.
Malloy agreed, but said cities like New Britain have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars battling to fire incompetent teachers under a current system that makes it difficult to weed out bad educators.
Melanie Buckley, a single parent of two students in Berlin, including a special education high school senior whom she said is in jeopardy of not graduating this year, told Malloy there needs to be greater partnerships between state and local agencies and a better system of information between them to identify and help floundering students.
“What, if anything, is being done to improve on this with your education reform? I just feel we need a true partnership between all the agencies for that student.”
Malloy said he has proposed other agency changes that call for improved technologies that would make it easier for agencies to share information.
One theme that was repeated numerous times during the governor’s hour-long visit here is the role poverty and parental involvement play in student performance and test scores. Several people told Malloy that unless the poverty rates in poor performing districts are addressed, his reforms are doomed to fail.
Malloy said he has taken that issue into consideration with other policies that dovetail with his education plan. For instance, he said his jobs program has helped reduce the unemployment rate, he has passed an earned income tax credit for the poor and he supported the mandate for paid sick days for a broader class of workers.
“This is a multifaceted approach.”
He also repeatedly sought to assure the teachers in the audience, of which there were many, that his plan would not take away their livelihood if they received a bad evaluation.
Every teacher, he said, can have a bad year and should not be penalized so harshly.
“I want to be very clear, and I’m looking you in the eye and telling you, we would not take away … even a bad teacher’s certification.”
He ended the meeting saying Connecticut has long since passed the point where it needs to tackle education reform. Many other states have undertaken successful reforms, including Massachusetts.
“The status quo is leading us to fail an increasing number of students in our state. Forty to 60 percent of students in community colleges or in one of our four state universities … has to take at least one remedial course, and in some cases multiple remedial courses.
“It’s a moral imperative that we do more.”