NEW HAVEN SCHOOL REFORM MOVING FORWARD
(11/5/2009) NEW HAVEN - New Haven’s school reform efforts took an important step today as City, Board of Education and the New Haven Federation of Teachers officials developed and agreed to a joint statement of beliefs. This statement is the product of pre-negotiation talks that have been taking place for several weeks. The statement outlines five shared assertions regarding the New Haven education system and points to specific priority areas that must be addressed. The joint beliefs statement will serve to guide upcoming contract negotiations and keep all parties in alignment and moving in a positive direction.
The joint statement is as follows:
Goal: Be the best urban district in the country, as measured by the performance and learning gains achieved by all public school students
• We believe that substantial improvement in student performance is needed in New Haven, that improvement is possible, and that there is urgency to making changes to accomplish those improvements
- All students in New Haven should have the opportunity and the means to achieve their full potential – and we must do much more to fulfill that commitment
- The national context, including the Obama/Duncan investments, has created a window of opportunity to accomplish substantial improvement
- New Haven, given its stability, its positive momentum, and its tradition of collaboration is well positioned to put the pieces together and create a truly distinctive district
• We believe that a sharper focus and greater priority on student performance is needed at all layers of the organizations
- Test scores and graduation rates are important components of any measurement of achievement, but they are both imperfect and not sufficient – other measures of performance matter as well
- It is our collective responsibility to help kids learn despite the deficits and obstacles that may exist in their environment, and therefore our focus needs to be on improvement in individual results more than on absolute achievement levels
- High expectations for the performance of all students are essential, as are the complementary expectations for adult performance.
• We believe that the people in the system – teachers, principals, and other staff – are the district’s most important resources, and that their individual and collective effectiveness is the most important factor in improving student results
- New Haven needs to attract, develop and retain the highest quality staff possible by creating school environments which maintain high standards of both professionalism and performance
- Improving student performance needs to be the focal point both for the day-to-day activity of adults and for the year-to-year continuous improvement and career trajectory of educators
- Judgments about the effectiveness of adults need to be made in ways that are objective, clear, timely, fair, and informed from multiple perspectives
• We believe that schools are the most important organizational units in the system, and that our policies and systems need to support the individual excellence of each school
- Schools are responsible for student performance, and central entities like the Board are responsible for supporting schools in achieving their goals
- The shared mission and ongoing professional collaboration within a school are the key factors in the success of the school
- The adults closest to the children are best positioned to know their students and to work together to define ways to help them succeed
- Although all schools must continue to improve, special attention should be directed to the lowest performing schools
• We believe that the best outcomes will come through the ongoing collaboration of the adults in and around the school system, all of whom are motivated to help students learn – including teachers, administrators, central staff, parents, and the Unions
- To get the dramatic improvements we seek, there must be significant change in behavior and practice in all parts of the district
- The challenges we face in improving the New Haven Schools are neither clear nor easy, but we have the collective will, the perseverance, and the relationships to support each other in developing effective systems and practices
The outcome of the teacher's union contract is central to New Haven's ability to reform the school system and ensure that all of its students have the opportunity for success. Issues such as longer school days and a longer academic calendar, differentiated pay, accountability for all adults within the system and central office control are expected to be difficult discussions. "It's important that we acknowledge our mutual interests in seeing kids become the best that they can be. We will honor the beliefs statement as we work together to move this school district and its students to reach the highest levels of success", said Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Reginald Mayo indicated that he was “pleased with the path traveled to get to this joint statement” and he hopes for “continued alignment among all the parties as we enter into the tough work of contract negotiations because the teacher contract is a critical factor in the success of this school reform effort.”
Joan Devlin, Senior Associate Director of Educational Issues for AFT said, “The AFT is excited about the promise this collaboration holds for advancing student achievement in New Haven Public Schools. We look forward to continuing our involvement with the NHFT, the district and the mayor as they work toward their mutual goal of making New Haven the best urban district in the country.”
Sharon Palmer, President of AFT CT, said that, “AFT Connecticut is very supportive of the collaborative efforts in New Haven. We hope this will lead to significant school reform to improve the New Haven schools. If successful, this model could be used in other districts across Connecticut.”
“This statement of our shared beliefs places children squarely at the center of this reform effort and will serve as a solid foundation for our continued efforts to work together to best serve our students. We can only succeed by working together,” said David Cicarella NHFT President.