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Takeaways from the municipal elections + NAEP, and a preview of our upcoming report on higher ed

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: takeaways from the municipal elections and the nation’s report card, and a preview of our upcoming report on higher education.

What to Learn from Yesterday’s Elections

Across the country, the results of yesterday’s elections are in—and Democratic wins are being framed as a referendum on President Trump. Democrats took control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, officially shifting it from a swing state to a Blue state. They also took the governorship in Kentucky—where the President won by 30 points in 2016 and where he campaigned last week.

Here in Connecticut, the Democratic candidates for mayor emerged victorious by 2-1 margins in both New Haven and Bridgeport—following hotly contested primaries—and Democratic Mayor Luke Bronin of Hartford was also re-elected to a second term. However, for Dems looking ahead to 2020, there are local lessons to be learned. Republicans held their own in Fairfield County, took back some seats in Hartford County, and overcame significant Democratic efforts in Danbury. There, Republican Mayor Mark Boughton had been criticized over his approach to education, which has included backing the Danbury Prospect Charter School. Voters have spoken in support of his position on the school, which has already been approved by the State Board of Education and which could help to solve the district’s overcrowding problems.

What to Learn from NAEP Results

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has called last week’s outcomes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)—in which most states saw flat performance for math and declines in reading proficiency—a "student achievement crisis." (For its part, Connecticut improved in fourth-grade math, but declined in fourth-grade reading, all while continuing to outperform the national average.) NAEP is the only test that compares performances state-to-state, which—as Arne Duncan points out in his Washington Post opinion—should prompt us to seek lessons from those that show growth. The former Secretary of Education points to several bright-lines, including Mississippi and Tennessee, which made impressive gains across grades and subjects. Duncan says most states/districts that have seen growth have had leadership continuity, and have often focused on talent development, high standards, and quality curriculum. He also says they've been courageous in the face of unpopular efforts such as teacher evaluation, accountability, and standardized assessments. Lots to unpack in these stories, and lots of room for improvement.

Teaser: “Less for More”—Our Look at Higher Education in CT

Nationally, this year has seen a lot of talk about the ways that institutions of higher education could better serve students—both in terms of preparing them for success and in terms of affordability. But just how do Connecticut schools fit into this conversation? Next week, Education Reform Now CT (our non-partisan sister organization) is planning to release a report that looks at how Connecticut’s bachelor-degree granting institutions compare to their national peers with respect to costs and completion rates. Be on the lookout!

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