Education Week’s 17th Annual Quality Counts Report 2013 ranks Connecticut’s schools 16th in the country and gives the state a C+ for an overall grade. There are a number of key education indicators that Education Week evaluates on a state-by-state basis, assigning a number out of 100 that represents the states’ performance on working toward excellence on each of these indicators. All of the related elements of the key indicators are rated and averaged to comprise a report card on each state. The emphasis it places on the broader educational environment and the equity of resource allocations to the school districts are two important aspects of this report. Attention given to these aspects focuses discussion on the parts of student success that are not exclusively related to academic achievement; namely, school climate. Peer relationships; students’ sense of safety in the school; and, disciplinary policies are important elements of school climate that have a direct impact on school effectiveness.
The six key education indicators are:
• Chance for success
• K – 12 achievement
• Standards, assessments and accountability
• Teaching profession
• School finance
• Transitions and alignment
Connecticut’s C+ overall score is due to low ratings on the elements of each key indicator; for example, the State of Connecticut received a rating of 50% on each of the elements comprising School Finance, spending and equity. Spending levels and equity have been areas needing improvement in Connecticut for many years. It was in 1977, in the Horton v. Meskill case before the Connecticut Supreme Court, that Connecticut’s system of school finance was invalidated. The court found the system of financing schools in Connecticut was inequitable because it relied on local property taxes and inadequate measures were taken by Connecticut to equalize funding of schools. The legislature responded by passing a bill which required a minimum education requirement (MER) that made a small step in reducing the inequities of school funding from town to town.
Twenty years later, a similar lawsuit, Sheff v. O’Neill, alleged that the Hartford school district was not providing an adequate education to its students. The Connecticut Supremes sidestepped the issue of adequacy of education and instead held that under the Connecticut Constitution racial segregation, whether intentional or not, deprived school children from district to district of equal educational opportunity and ordered the state to take measures that would remediate de facto segregation. In response, the legislature enacted laws to fund magnet schools and encourage voluntary inter-district student transfers. Since then, there have been other lawsuits against the state claiming that there has not been adequate progress in addressing the inequities of school funding throughout the state.
For the elements of the remaining 5 indicators, Connecticut’s scores are lower than those it received in the School Finance category. Generally, the scores in the remaining five indicators hover around 35%. It is important to note that Connecticut could take a lesson from its neighboring state, Massachusetts, to review the policies of school reform that it put into place to receive higher marks than Connecticut across the board. Massachusetts received scores in the 80 – 90% range in on the Chance for Success and K -12 Achievement indicators, whereas Connecticut’s ratings in these areas are much lower.
The limited space for this article precludes any in depth analysis of the Education Week Quality Counts 2013 report for Connecticut. I encourage the reader to access this report to draw their own conclusions and courses of action. Detailed individual state reports are available from Education Week for a small fee.