In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection we ask 5 Questions of Daniel Long, assistant professor of sociology.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has made education reform a major priority this year. He has proposed a sweeping package of reforms, including overhauling teacher tenure, increasing Education Cost Sharing grants to struggling districts, funding more preschool slots for low-income children, and requiring districts to contribute additional money for students to attend charter schools.
Q: Connecticut suffers from the highest black/white and poor/non-poor achievement gap in the country. What can be done to address this?
A: In Connecticut—as well as nationwide—longitudinal studies have shown that the achievement gap is constant or decreases during the months that children are enrolled in school, meaning black and white and poor and non-poor students learn at the same rate while in school. But the gaps are quite large before students enter school, and expand during the summer. To address this, many have suggested increasing the time kids spend in school, and offering academic enrichment activities to poor and minority students during the summer. Experimental studies have also shown that really high-quality early childhood education—which includes small class sizes, great teachers, social workers who support parents, and adequate health services—can make a big difference. Unfortunately, many early childhood education programs, such as Head Start, don’t meet these standards. The Perry Preschool Project in Michigan and the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York are examples of really effective programs.
Q: Governor Malloy seeks to boost funding for charter schools, requiring municipalities to provide an additional $1,000 per student. Do you think this is a good use of taxpayer money?
A: No, I don’t. On average, students perform equal or worse in charter schools than in public schools. Connecticut’s charter schools do a little better than the national average—in part,