Connecticut superintendents propose a radically different approach to education

How do you transform factory era school systems so that they better serve the needs of an information age society? You don’t do it by being timid.

Unlike most school reformers floating ‘tweak-the-status-quo’ proposals these days (let’s test kids more! let’s get rid of a few teachers! let’s make school longer! let’s lecture better!), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) decided to swing for the fences:


Read the full report. See what a different education system could be. Share your thoughts in the comment area!

Additional resources

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

22 Responses to “Connecticut superintendents propose a radically different approach to education”

  1. Wow! Now this IS educational leadership. This is exactly what superintendents need to do — push the envelope. Why regular another generation of students to practices that haven’t worked, move forward. Thanks for sharing this and I’m excited to see what comes of this initiative; hopefully more states will follow suit.

  2. I like that the ideas are forward-thinking, but seem to recognize that schools as have known them have some value that we can preserve and leverage but not at the expense of the new educational opportunities that technology can help leverage that aren’t currently found in most schools.

  3. Good ideas, but still a lot of buzz words. The proof will be in the implementation.

  4. Once again, I see policy being proposed by those who will not have to live with the consequences, or fill in the actual details.
    The trend is for teachers and schools to be held “accountable.” Many of us try to teach critical thinking and higher order skills, but our students, teachers, and schools are evaluated by multiple choice tests. Schools are ranked based on what percentage of students are [at least minimally] proficient, but there are no incentives to get students to “advanced”. Schools are not the be-all and end all of learning, but laws require compulsory attendance and required curriculum that leave very little room for student-focused education. The people making the laws are usually not educators, and are often hostile to them!
    At the more local level, would districts give teachers time and the ability to make connections with professionals in the community? How about to establish learning goals that properly represent a student’s ability and interests? Will class sizes be kept small enough that teachers can evaluate student’s work and progress? When you are a secondary teacher responsible for 150 students (and many of us teach more), how many minutes a week can you afford to devote to assessing a student’s progress? A mere 15 minutes a week translates to a second full-time job of 37.5 hours! How much time would be required to accurately evaluate and record a student’s progress?

    • Bill, let me start by saying that I feel your pain. The current system sucks in so many ways.

      That said, how are we ever going to get to the new education system we need if 1) we don’t start envisioning what it will look like, and 2) we can’t get out of the current box with our own thinking? Isn’t the point of this proposal to try and move us forward by doing things DIFFERENTLY rather than trying to shoehorn this into the existing system. If we keep the system we have now and try to do all this too, of course we won’t be able to do it. That’s why CAPSS is talking about re-envisioning, not tweaking.


      • This is the era of “No we can’t” [or more accurately “No we won’t”] Teaching staff are being cut, our pay and benefits attacked, and we are being asked to do ever more with less. “Vision” is great, but we also need to live in the real world. How can we actually provide the best experience and environment for our students with the resources that we actually have.

  5. Bill – what policy did you propose this week? What statewide report did you write? What transformational project did you stick you neck out for?

    That is not to say that you are not doing an awesome job as a teacher. You are, I’m sure. But, I think being negative toward a group of folks that seem to be legitimately trying to improve things and taking bold steps to get there is not the right play.

    • I’m sorry, but this is the view from the trenches. There is zero chance that schools will be funded or staffed for any initiative like this. If any of it is proposed or passed, it will be loaded onto already overworked teachers, and when it fails for lack of support, teachers will be blamed again. I am not negative to the idea, I would LOVE to be able to work with students on topics that they are interested in, which is why I spend some of my personal time working with students on Science Fair projects. Not acknowledging problems does not make them go away.

    • Oh, and as an aside, I happen to be one of the authors of the “Big Ideas” for Science for the Standards Aligned System which is an attempt to take the confusion and minutia that the State Standards were/are and put them into themes which can actually be used rather than a series of bullet-points. As they say, a camel is a horse designed by a committee, so I wouldn’t claim that they are perfect, but they do take what we have to deal with (State Standards) and attempt to make them easier to plan and teach with.

    • Justin, what point are you trying to make with those questions? Maybe I’m misreading it, but the questions came off to me as a “if you’re not doing it, you shouldn’t critique it.”

  6. Well, if they were proposing it to me, and I was queen of the universe, I’d say, “Finally!” I hope this, at the very least, puts the conversation in the right direction. At the most, maybe teachers will be given the time and space, and training to implement. Whatever, I’m happy to see that, somewhere in the US, people are actually beginning to speak the right language.

  7. Sorry to be anonymous…lets just say I happen to be in the back seat of one of the reformers vehicles…

    The way this is/will play out is more control over teachers and more standardization, with less innovation and creativity allowed. My kids were better prepared to create the future while we were under the list on the left, than after we started implementing the list on the right.

  8. Not as exhaustive (or pretty), but the Virginia superintendents have taken a similarly proactive approach. Here’s a link to their “Blueprint”

    Kudos to these state superintendents for staking their claim on the policy agenda.

  9. John Dewey said it best,
    If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.
    I live in the trench and I am ready to take these kids not just to tomorrow but beyond. We need visions about what that can be, flexible, growing and ever changing.

  10. I’m a high school teacher, and I look at this list with some trepidation. Unless it’s properly funded, transitioning to such a system would probably do more harm than good to students and to teachers. Education is not properly funded now, not where I teach at least. This model would seemingly cost more money with its earlier start and the need to retrain teachers. Not only is funding an issue, but I fail to see how it addresses the fundamental problem that no one seems to want to talk about, the overwhelmingly negative impact of poverty on children’s educations. The correlation (and I would say that in this case smoke means fire – correlation indicates causation) between the socioeconomic status of children and their performance in schools is pretty clear. To my mind, all of these attempts to fix a broken system that don’t address this problem are tantamount to sticking a band aid on an arterial bleeder.

    • How will we ever move to the system we need if we can’t get past the system we have?

      I hear what you’re saying about low SES. Many of those kids (and others!) however, are dropping out of our current system but respond well to systems that are less factory-like.

  11. As an educator in CT, I can tell you that the vision is nice, but the reality is that we have a new commissioner who has never been in a classroom being led by a governor with clear disdain for public education as he perceives it to be. The relationship between state leaders and teachers is contentious at best, and the recommendations still do not reach the heart of the matter – that only those in relatively affluent areas have access to the myriad opportunities proposed in this report.

  12. Hi, Speaking of Education Reform, what do you think of this initiative?
    Global Standard School will be revolutionary in many ways and aligned to exceed the UN Millennium Development and UNESCO EFA/Dakar Framework for Action goals. With development of GSS, we can meet those 2015 deadlines. Read more here: Please spread the word with those who can make this a reality!

  13. Looking at the report, I was struck by some bold moves on the part of CT to redefine how we do our work in schools. It was especially interesting to see them rethink how students might progress through school. Instead of moving by an age-grouped cohort, they would move by having mastered learning targets geared towards each level, presumably age-appropriate learning targets. This is a very bold move. It will be interesting to see if they can conceptualize this model and implement a mastery-oriented learning environment.

    I do remain skeptical that in a student-centered learning space you have network students with “student-centered, relational staf!ng featuring professional partnerships with experts, certi!ed staff, community resources and mentors.” This sounds good, but I have worked with lots of these people within schools and they are not trained in how to work with students in collaborative settings. They tend to teach as they were taught–teacher in control of students. So how will CT train all these folks to teach in a way that is consistent with a student-centered model. That will be extremely challenging. I would rather ramp up the training for existing teachers and have them facilitate these partnerships within their own learning spaces.


    Bob Ryshke
    Center for Teaching
    Atlanta, GA

  14. The issue, I think, is how or in what order these ideas are implemented, assuming that they’re all not going to happen simultaneously overnight. I think the only hope of actually implementing them is by spending some money on technology and professional development that actually gets us to the desired goals.

  15. These are great ideas that could really transform the relationship between teachers and students. Many of these ideas are already in practice in Further education, where structures are more flexible and students a little more mature in their approach to learning. The way to implement is allow schools the freedom to pilot these ideas, via policy initiatives like the Academy schools in the UK, where leaders can take risks and develop templates for future practice.

  16. I suggest looking at Australia and the open source movement.

    Australia is the #1 ranked English-speaking country and #2 ranked globally in terms of digital education (S. Korea is #1). Australia (ASK-OSS) did some research studies years ago on using open source in education and moving away from proprietary-based systems/resources. Schools across Australia have been embracing open source – making learning freely available and accessible to all. They’ve recently unveiled Australian Curriculum v3.0 – which is based on older US/UK standards. This curriculum includes ICT standards which move beyond a core body set of knowledge to one based on needs for a 21st Century. They’ve also recently unveiled other projects as part of a digital education revolution to allow ALL Australians to benefit from a digital economy.

    The self-directed, child-led, homeschool/unschool movement also is transforming education today, especially with open sources. Open sources allow any child access digital content freely. It gives new meaning to words (and concept) intellectual freedom. Moodle and other open sources ( make it possible to find, publish, and create open source software for free.

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