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Conn. Governor Prods Lawmakers After Race to Top Loss

Having seen his state's hopes dashed for winning a pile of cash in the latest Race to the Top competition, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says he hopes that loss will serve as a kick in the pants for policymakers.

"[O]ver time, we have lost our edge as a state," the Democrat wrote to legislators this week. "Our state's positioning has weakened to the point that we are not competitive in national grant competitions like the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge."

Malloy also pointed to stagnant or otherwise lackluster showings on state and national tests as evidence that Connecticut needs to pursue an aggressive agenda to improve its schools. The governor asked lawmakers from both parties to work with him and his appointed commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor, to make it happen.

In his letter, Malloy said will support efforts to improve early-childhood education services in the state; expand charters, magnets, and other school options for families; and deliver more resources to low-performing schools, "provided that they embrace key reforms."

The governor also appears to be keen in following the route taken by numerous other states in establishing new standards for judging the professional ability of teachers and principals. He called for creating a system that "values their skill and effectiveness over seniority and tenure."

When the latest round of Race to the Top winners were announced last week, Connecticut's performance was decidedly middle-of-the-pack. Its application was ranked 20th out of 37 contestants.

The Obama administration has boasted of Race to the Top's impact in states that approved school legislation or policies in an effort to increase their odds of winning various rounds of the competition. Malloy's letter is one example of a different phenomenon: a political leader using a setback in the high-profile competition to try to goad elected officials to action.

Malloy says he will convene a series of education workshops in early January to gather input from teachers, business leaders, and others. Then he and Pryor will work with state lawmakers to fashion those ideas into legislation.

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