Paul Vallas brings reform to Bridgeport, Connecticut schools
April 19, 2012 1 Comment
If you follow the education reform discourse in America these days, you have no doubt heard of Paul Vallas. He’s the superintendent known for bringing sweeping changes to school districts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Recovery School District in New Orleans. He has also contributed to rebuilding schools in places like Haiti and Chile. His newest endeavor is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a small, poor city in the midst of a wealthy county whose schools are failing. In Bridgeport, only 10% of tenth graders meet the state’s math and reading standards, which is the lowest student achievement in the state.
Last July, the school board made a risky decision by voting themselves out and asking the state to take the lead on education reform and improvement. The new board hired Paul Vallas as the interim superintendent for the year beginning in January, hoping he could make some progress. Vallas hopes that even if he only stays for a year or two, the signs of success will enable the parents, the mayor and others to sustain momentum. So far Vallas’ plan includes increasing funding with money coming from increased taxes, the government, and grants. With more money Vallas has introduced a 5-year plan that will restructure senior year of high school, split up big schools into smaller ones, standardize the curriculum and give each school more budget autonomy to focus funds where they are most needed.
Vallas hopes to show the rest of the country that “there are models for school improvement that don’t cost $1 million a school.” Even in a tough economy with various financial constraints, like the Bridgeport school district’s $8 million budget shortfall, Vallas plans to illustrate the possibility of success without throwing money at new experiments but rather practicing frugality and doing more with less.
Vallas joined the Program on America and the Global Economy and the Wilson Center at an event in March entitled “Restoring America’s Competitive Edge.” Read more about it here.
Posted by: Devon Thorsell
Source: The Wall Street Journal, The Times-Picayune
Photo credit: David Hawxhurst/WWICS