What is going on in Connecticut?

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The tortuous course of education reform over the past several months in Connecticut has the trappings of a blockbuster news story: a bold governor, staid union forces, weak-kneed legislators, activist college students, closed-door negotiations — all within the larger context of a national battle for education justice. Yet outside of Connecticut the story hasn't gotten much play. 

In January, the state's Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, a stakeholder group that included the teachers union, unanimously adopted a set of teacher and principal evaluation guidelines that put student learning at the center. Governor Malloy then introduced legislation to codify the evaluation guidelines, also linking tenure and compensation to them. In February, Connecticut's legislature began considering the reform package. By March, in closed door, off site meetings with the union, the package was, in effect, neutered.

Adoption of the new guidelines would make Connecticut the 18th state to adequately factor student achievement into its evaluations. Of those states, more and more are tying their progressive evaluation systems to core decisions like layoff policies, merit pay, and tenure awards. From the national perspective, it can seem like the direction of momentum is set, with comprehensive reform just a few legislative sessions away. But at the local level, the battles are still tense, and right now, Connecticut is in the final weeks of debate over what could either be a landmark bill, or another compliance-focused wash.

Since the bill's decimation, Malloy has been campaigning across the state, expressing frustration, even threatening a veto. On Monday, Norwich officials announced their City Council's unanimous endorsement to restore the education bill to its original form, becoming the first city to do so. Wednesday, the Associated Press finally put out a story on the issue. And last night, college students rallied at the state Capitol. With less than 3 weeks left in this legislative session, will Malloy and the reformers be able to pull it off?

-Laura Johnson