President Obama’s inaugural speech: “Our country cannot succeed” without addressing economic disparity

In his second inaugural address, President Obama directly commented on the issue of economic disparity in the U.S. Hear his comments here:

Here’s the transcript of his remarks:

“For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

Within the President’s comments is the suggestion that we are NOT being “true to our creed,” since that little girl doesn’t have the same chance to succeed. What, if anything, can or should be done to meet the President’s goal? Please share your thoughts and suggestions.

Stuck in the middle with… half-day kindergarten

A Torrington, Conn. half-day kindergarten class (photo by Karla Woodworth, contributed by Torrington Early Childhood Collaborative)

The difference between wealthier towns and poorer ones in Connecticut is seen in the educational “achievement gap.” Today, we’re looking at one of the challenges of being in the middle. Specifically, the challenge of funding a full-day kindergarten program. The wealthier towns can afford all day kindergarten because of their tax base. The poorer cities have full-day K because they’re more eligible for grants and state and federal money. But districts like Torrington are stuck in the middle.

Here’s Will Stone’s story:

Most of the attention when we talk about disparity is on the top and bottom. But where else do you see the unique issues of being in the middle? Is your community forgotten, or stuck without resources? Comment here on the blog, or email us at

Conn. joins states in trying to address achievement gap with more school hours

Connecticut education officials have announced plans to extend school hours in some of the state’s neediest schools beginning next year. The announcement was made today at a forum with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington. Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Tennessee will add at least 300 hours of learning a year to some low performing schools. U.S. Education Secretary Duncan says the goal is to boost student achievement in those states. The three year pilot program will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in the five states.

Governor Malloy says schools in Hartford, New Haven, Meriden, East Hartford and New London will participate. He says its a natural outgrowth of an education reform law passed by the state in May that included $100 million in new funding to help close the state’s academic achievement gap, one of the worst in the nation.

“The idea that we can tolerate different levels of achievement based on geography or race or wealth or home ownership simply doesn’t make any sense,” said Malloy.

Here’s Ebong Udoma’s story:

Connecticut education commissioner Stefan Pryor says teachers unions are helping make the longer school day happen.”Bridgeport has undertaken a shift method where they are beginning to look at how the teachers can arrive early or later and extend time with limited cost impact,” said Pryor.

Mark Waxenberg of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union says the important thing is not just adding time for time’s sake. “It’s how to use the time to advance the cause of public education.”

Federal, state and local district money will be used to cover the expanded learning time. The Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning are also chipping in resources. Here’s their press announcement.

Not everyone agrees that longer school days will make a difference. A report last year from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education disputed the idea that American schools have fallen behind in classroom time. The report said students in high-performing countries like South Korea, Finland and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.

Malloy says he hopes national education standard will help with achievement gap

Governor Dannel Malloy says he believes the state’s adoption of a new national education standard will help close Connecticut’s achievement gap, which is one of the worst in the country.
The national standards are sponsored by the National Governors Association. The hope is to bring diverse state curricula in alignment with each other. Here’s Ebong Udoma’s story:
Governor Malloy says the inability of public schools in Connecticut to properly prepare 12th grade graduates to compete in college or to have the skills to get a job is “frightening.”

ECS Task Force asks for more time

With much of public education supported by local property taxes, the poorer cities and towns are at a disadvantage. That’s where the Education Cost Sharing Formula is supposed to help. ECS, as it’s called, was created to equalize funding to towns across the state. Governor Dannel Malloy created a task force to review the effectiveness of the ECS grant and how it relates to state constitutional requirements. Now, the task force says it needs more time. Here’s the story:
The task force is expected to present its recommendations to the legislature in January. We’ll be taking a much closer look at the ECS formula soon here on State of Disparity.

Economics and 4 year graduation rates

The U.S. Department of Education released preliminary data this week on 4-year high school graduation rates, and, not surprisingly, they show the impact of economics. Overall, 83% of students in Conn. graduated in four years. For “economically challenged” students, the rate was 69%. You can find the chart listing all 50 states here. And here’s Kaomi Goetz’s story on the report:

It’s the first year in which all 50 states used a common metric.More than half of all states reported lower graduation rates under the new measure – but officials say the new results shouldn’t be read as measures of progress or failure, but as a more accurate picture.

What about the achievement gap?

Governor Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (right) touring an elementary school in Meriden

In the world of education, we see the state’s economic disparity show up in what we call the “achievement gap.” Year after year, the state’s standardized tests show a shocking difference between the academic performance in our wealthier areas and the scores in the poorer areas.

Governor Dannel Malloy has introduced a range of reforms to the state’s education system, and many of them are aimed at doing something about the achievement gap. You can read some of his announcements here, and hear a recap from him and his Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, from our Fairfield County Focus episode here:

We talked about the Governor’s proposals with Rae Ann Knopf of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. The Council evolved out of the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, which was appointed by the state’s last governor, Republican Jodi Rell.  They issued a report with a number of recommendations, which you can read here. You can hear Knopf talk about the extent of the achievement gap and the commission’s recommendations here:

Knopf is a fan of the Governor’s reform proposals.  She explains why in the second part of our interview:


Probably the most contentious of Malloy’s education proposals is about teacher tenure.  Here’s Ebong Udoma’s report on Malloy’s Feb. 21 testimony on the topic before the General Assembly’s Education Committee:

Here at State of Disparity, we’re going to keep coming back to look at the reform proposals and what they could actually mean for Connecticut’s achievement gap. Stay tuned!