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STATE OF THE STATES: Governors Stress Education-Economy Link, NCLB Waivers, High School Graduation Rates, and Common Core State Standards

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“Let’s be honest with ourselves, and let’s speak bluntly: many parts of our system of public education are broken,” Malloy said. “In too many places, public schools are failing their two most basic missions: to provide children with an equal, world-class education, irrespective of race or income, and to ensure that their skills and knowledge match the needs of Connecticut’s employers. As I traveled around the state last summer on my jobs tour, nothing was more frustrating than a refrain I heard from too many employers. They said, ‘I have job openings, but I can’t find workers in Connecticut with the skills to fill them.’”

In his state of the state address on February 8, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) proposed a $128 million increase in funding for education. Noting that “much” of the increase would be targeted to the state’s lowest-performing districts, Malloy urged legislators to take a realistic look at the number of struggling schools and direct more attention toward their reform.

“Let’s be honest with ourselves, and let’s speak bluntly: many parts of our system of public education are broken,” Malloy said. “In too many places, public schools are failing their two most basic missions: to provide children with an equal, world-class education, irrespective of race or income, and to ensure that their skills and knowledge match the needs of Connecticut’s employers. As I traveled around the state last summer on my jobs tour, nothing was more frustrating than a refrain I heard from too many employers. They said, ‘I have job openings, but I can’t find workers in Connecticut with the skills to fill them.’”

Malloy offered a six-point plan to guide education reform efforts in the state that includes: (1) Increasing access to and quality of early childhood education; (2) address Connecticut’s system for delivering state resources to the schools; (3) transform schools with the “worst legacies of low achievement;” (4) strengthen and expand high-quality school models; (5) remove red tape and barriers to success; and (6) do a better job of helping and supporting teachers.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D) spoke proudly on the progress that the state has made in improving education through winning the federal “Race to the Top” competition, offering alternative licensing measures for teachers, increasing per-pupil aid, and enacting the “Read by Third Grade” initiative.

During his state of the state address on February 15, Dayton also touted the U.S. Department of Education’s approval of Minnesota’s No Child Left Behind wavier as a testimony to the federal government’s confidence in the positive direction of Minnesota’s education reform. “Our challenge this year is to put all of it to work for the schoolchildren, parents, teachers, and administrators throughout Minnesota,” Dayton said.

Dayton implored Minnesota legislators to invest in state education due to the increasing importance of education to stimulating the economy. He noted that 70 percent of Minnesota’s jobs will require some kind of postsecondary degree by 2018. “Our postsecondary students need more than degrees; they need the world’s best educations so they can thrive in that world,” Dayton said. “And Minnesota will not thrive unless they do.”

During his state of the state address on February 7, Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) reiterated that education is a civil right and that more must been done to bring quality education to underserved areas. Kasich conceded that while Ohio boasts an impressive 80 percent graduation rate statewide, the state is failing to address the 65 percent graduation rate for urban areas.

Kasich also noted that 41 percent of college students have to take remedial courses in math and English, driving up the cost of college and burdening students with debt. “This is not sustainable. America has been falling behind and Ohio is stuck in the middle and we need to fix it.”

Through proposed and existing efforts, Kasich touched on increasing school vouchers, removing the cap for charter schools, introducing a school ranking system, and teacher evaluation.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R), during his February 13 state of the state address , articulated the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in preparing Wyoming children for the changing economy and global atmosphere. He noted that the state’s economy, which is heavily focused on computing and natural resources, demands workers with knowledge and skills in the STEM fields.

Mead also defended the state’s decision to adopt the common core state standards. “Now is the time, without regard to what the federal government may want, for us to step up, refuse to be left behind and accept common core standards as determined by Wyoming citizens,” Mead said. “We are not signing on with federal curriculum. These are Wyoming standards. We are signing on to a better future for our children by demanding more rigorous standards.”

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