Dropout Rates Worse, Malloy Touts Ed. Reform

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says his proposed education overhaul will address Connecticut’s fluctuating four-year graduation rate by improving the state’s low-performing schools.

The Democratic governor’s efforts come as a new study using 2009 data finds fewer Connecticut students are graduating from high school in four years, compared to 2002.

Malloy said that the problem is a systemic one and that other states have done more work to improve their graduation rates.

“Kids don’t suddenly wake up when they’re 15 or 16 and decide they want to leave school,” Malloy said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. “It’s almost always the result of low achievement; it’s almost always representative of not mastering skill sets earlier on in an academic career.”

The national report by the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and other education advocacy and policy groups cites data from the U.S. Department of Education. The report’s data, however, do not account for population changes during the study period.

The study compared state four-year graduation rates between 2002 and 2009. States that saw a decrease in this rate were identified as “lagging.”

In this period of time, the study found, graduation rates in Connecticut declined from 79.7 percent to 75.4 percent.

In February, the governor unveiled a wide-ranging 163-page bill that overhauls the state’s education system. Some of the proposals include tackling teacher tenure and targeting more state financial aid to low-performing schools. Malloy said every change he has proposed aims to raise the graduation rate in Connecticut.

In a tour of the state to sell his plan, Malloy has received criticism from some teachers who believe his proposal unfairly blames them for low student performance, and not their socio-economic conditions. His plans to change teacher tenure and evaluations have drawn some of the most criticism.

Sen. Andrew Fleischmann, a West Hartford Democrat and the General Assembly’s Education Committee co-chairman, said the governor’s bill will likely improve high school retention rates and strengthen student skills by the time of graduation.

The governor’s proposal to create a “Commissioner’s Network” of the lowest-performing schools, however, could have the biggest impact on Connecticut’s four-year high school graduation rate, Fleischmann said. The network would allow the Education Department to intervene in the state’s lowest performing schools and districts in an effort to turn them around.

The most recent data from Connecticut’s Education Department, which were not used in the Johns Hopkins study, show that nearly one in five Connecticut students in 2010 did not complete high school in four years. The state calculated that nearly 82 percent of students graduated on time in 2010.

The legislature’s Education Committee has yet to schedule a vote on the bill containing Malloy’s education reform proposals.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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