Without hesitation we acknowledge Ridgefield’s public school system is one of the finest in the state (perhaps one of the best the country).
Families choose to live in Ridgefield for many reasons, but a principal one is the outstanding education their children can secure in the kindergarten through 12 public school system.
Students of Ridgefield’s public education system have been nationally awarded over the years for their learning skills and creative thinking.
Right now Ridgefield’s system of public education is under threat and faces potentially damaging actions, as a result of legislation passed by the Connecticut General Assembly this year.
There is understandable legislative concern regarding the diminishing levels of education achievement among students across the state. Their concern about an “achievement gap” led to passage of the Education Reform Act, (SB 458) with a set of comprehensive performance standards and practices meant to improve student learning and close the gap.
There is legitimate concern that this Educational Reform Act may have the opposite effect of actually widening the gap. But the most critical question for us is whether it is fair to impose this new set of standards upon Ridgefield, a town with superb public education already in place. This is undeserved punishment in light of the outstanding collective performance by Ridgefield’s teachers, parents, students and administrators.
Legislators did their finger-pointing at parents and at teachers. This was a quick and effective way to pass the buck in explaining the achievement gap. Yet, all parties to this legislation appear to be in denial about the root cause of poor student performance.
And that root cause? It is communities without adequate financial resources and support systems to produce and assure satisfactory student performance levels.
This poverty of adequate community support systems and community resources is causative to most every failing school system. State legislators should be addressing these needs as the way to close the achievement gap.
Finally, will implementation of the Educational Reform Act deny Ridgefield her splendid system of equal, accessible and excellent public education?
And will the legislative insistence on extensive “testing for students” (I call it robo-testing) rather than “teaching for students” become the norm?
Will third-party entities make determinations about public school process as if education were a corporate business?
An enormous amount of money has been made available to run the business of reform.
Left unchecked, the Education Reform Act may well turn out to be a case of “No Child Gets Ahead.”
There is little time left to keep Ridgefield’s current public education system intact, but we must try.
Carolanne Curry is the Democratic candidate for state Senate in the 26th District, which includes Ridgefield (www.curryforstatesenate.com).
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