As he prepares to leave his three-year post as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor says he’s perhaps most of proud of how the dialogue has shifted in and around schools.
“I'm hearing a lot from parents who are saying, 'You know what, we shouldn't be settling for good enough in Connecticut. We should be reaching for true excellence,'” Pryor said during an exclusive interview Thursday.
Pryor announced last week that he will not serve for second term if the opportunity presents itself. He was appointed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in September 2011.
He did face his fair share of challenges throughout his term, including implementing the Common Core State Standards into Connecticut schools. He also grappled at times with the state’s influential teachers unions like the Connecticut Education Association.
“I think that overall it’s been a working relationship with us and with the governor’s office and the commissioner for the improvement of public education,” said Mark Waxenberg, the current Executive Director of the CEA. “We did disagree on issues but we always had the same goal in mind which was always students, teachers, and public education but we did come from a different perspective. I wouldn’t say I was happy to see him go.”
Pryor touted accomplishments like education reform and increasing the amount of funding for and the number of students enrolled in the state’s First Class Pre-K program.
On Common Core, however, is where Pryor found disagreement when it came to implementation with some teachers, but he defended the way the state handled the standards.
“In Connecticut, we've taken the time listening to stakeholders. We can always do more of that but there's been teacher voice, there's been parent voice in the process so we've adjusted our method,” Pryor said.
Waxenberg said he would prefer to see Connecticut-based standards incorporate the Common Core rather than take a mandate from Washington on what’s best for the state.
“Instead of replacing the Connecticut standards with common core, we should be melding them together to make that Connecticut’s are the most rigorous in the country because they have been over the past years,” Waxenberg said.
Pryor said he’s not sure of his last day but has the option to work until the end of 2014.