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New ERNA Poll of CT Voters, Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, Lucy Calkins' Failing Grade

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: New ERNA Poll of CT Voters, Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, and Lucy Calkins Gets Another Failing Grade.

New ERNA CT Poll: Good News for Ed Equity and Gov. Lamont

On Monday, we released the results of a poll commissioned by our 501(c)(4) affiliate, Education Reform Now Advocacy CT, and conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP). Although many of the education policy topics that were surveyed might be considered controversial nationally, Amy noted in our press statement that Connecticut shows far more consensus. “It’s clear that voters here are concerned with equity and fairness in education policy debates—particularly with issues related to Critical Race Theory, college admissions, and public health," she said. The poll’s findings touch upon the following:

  • Critical Race Theory: 85% of likely 2022 general election voters are familiar with it, and a plurality know that it's not actually being taught in CT public schools.

  • College Accessibility: 56% favor prohibiting the use of legacy preferences for children of alumni. More on this below!

  • COVID-19 Masking and Vaccination Requirements for Schools: Nearly two thirds of respondents favor vaccines and masks for both students and teachers.

Additionally, the poll shows promising news for Governor Ned Lamont, who finds himself in a strong position heading into the 2022 gubernatorial election. He leads in head-to-heads against both Bob Stefanowski and Themis Klarides, and 60% of voters viewed him favorably.

Should College Legacy Preference Be Part of CT’s Past?

This week, Amherst College announced that it would stop boosting admissions for children of alumni, a practice known as the legacy preference. According to the New York Times, Amherst now joins a group of highly selective schools to make this commitment, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and the California Institute of Technology. Some have argued that the legacy preference helps prestigious schools to solicit donations from alumni, but research shows that the practice impedes efforts to diversify the student populations within the country's top colleges. Our affiliate, Education Reform Now (ERN), has been making this point for years. (Throwback to last year's post from Katlyn Riggins and James Murphy, which demonstrates that—beyond the moral implications of using a "hereditary privilege" to keep out traditionally marginalized populations—legacy preferences also are simply bad for business.)

A Forbes piece last week noted that California has passed a law requiring colleges to report legacy admissions policies to the government, while Colorado barred the practice by its public colleges just this year. According to the College Transitions website, here in Connecticut, every prestigious public and private four-year college or university currently considers legacy preference in its admissions criteria. It’s time for Connecticut to follow in Colorado’s footsteps, and the majority of voters agree.

Lucy Calkins Gets Another Failing Grade

Yesterday, EdReports.Org, an independent nonprofit organization devoted to reviewing and evaluating instructional materials for K-12 use, posted their much-anticipated report on Units of Study from Lucy Calkins & Columbia Teachers College. This curriculum is also familiarly known as Readers Writers Workshop. We do not yet have official data on how many districts in Connecticut currently use this program in their K-2 classrooms for reading instruction (information that will finally start being collected by the state under the Right to Read legislation next year!). But we estimate it’s upwards of half—including both high-performing districts like Westport and West Hartford, and some of the state’s Alliance Districts. According to the report, the programs “do not meet expectations” in any category evaluated or any grade level. It states that Units of Study, “lacks a research-based rationale for the order of phonological awareness and phonics instruction. The reading units mainly utilize a cueing system for solving unknown words that focus on the initial sound and meaning cues rather than on decoding strategies.” With the passage of Connecticut's new "Right to Read" legislation in June, the State Department of Education will now begin the process of shifting the entire state away from approaches to literacy that are not evidence-based, like this one, and towards the Science of Reading.

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