U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in Connecticut Tuesday to announce that eight states, including Connecticut, will be granted waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Duncan’s first stop was New Haven where he met with educators, advocates and lawmakers to talk about school reform. Much of the discussion centered on New Haven’s teachers’ contract, which has been hailed as a model for the nation.
Teachers, principals, superintendents, students and lawmakers sat in a large circle in the library at New Haven’s Brennan-Rogers School to hear from, and speak to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Duncan said he wanted to hear how New Haven quietly addresses some of the most contentious areas of school reform.
"New Haven is absolutely at the forefront of what I call tough minded collaboration. Not collaboration around the status quo, but collaboration around the tough issues of closing achievement gaps and making sure every single student can go on."
David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers pointed to the city’s teacher’s contract which includes a rigorous evaluation system, created with the union. He said collective bargaining can be seen as a tool to advance school reform.
"We actually used collective bargaining to put some teeth into what we said, and put some legality into what we said we were going to do."
"That’s critically important." State Senator Martin Looney.
"What happened in New Haven had more strength and more teeth because it was bargained rather than imposed from outside. The model only works when you have a buy-in, when teachers are invested in it."
Duncan asked teachers in the room how to attract and better train great talent.
Kimberlee Henry, a teacher at Brennan-Rogers, agreed with those who said teacher training should be modeled more on medical school, with greater clinical time in the field.
"Two to five classes about urban schools teaches you nothing about the work that we do in an urban community."
In the wake of Secretary Duncan’s announcement about Connecticut's No Child Left Behind waiver, the CEA - CT’s largest teacher’s union - issued a statement saying that it is ready to collaborate with the federal government on school reform.