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From the Capitol / State Sen. Toni Boucher

A report card on the progress of Connecticut students is out, and what it reveals should make every Connecticut resident and business owner sit up and take notice.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress:

Only half of all Connecticut students are reading at grade level.

Less than one out of three students perform at grade level in math.

Only about one out of four African American students read at grade level when they graduate.

Only one out of four Hispanic students read at grade level upon graduation, and about one in 10 Hispanic students performs at grade level in math.

Why should those statistics grab your attention? Here in Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut, education drives job growth. The development of a skilled workforce enables Connecticut businesses to compete. To fill their labor needs, Connecticut employers are free to seek out talent from all over the world. When just 50 percent of Connecticut students are reading at grade level and less than 33 percent are performing up to par in math, area employers should be justifiably concerned about hiring locally.

Where do we go from here?

Let's set a realistic, achievable state goal: making certain that our young people enter the workforce with the professional and technical skills they need to succeed. To reach that goal, we can start at the State Capitol with a concerted effort to get government out of education's way.

Elimination of burdensome state education mandates should be a top priority in Hartford, but these state requirements seem to grow larger and longer every year. Let's stop suffocating the education process in Connecticut in an effort to create a one-size-fits-all approach in our schools. Leave high-performing schools alone, and reward academically advanced students with access to scholarships to our state universities. Doing so will help retain talent right here in Connecticut. Emphasis on local control, flexibility, accountability and creativity can produce better future report cards.

Those who prefer the status quo are content with the statistics listed above. Are you?

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton. She serves as ranking member of the state Legislature's Education Committee and Higher Education Committee. On the web: www.senatorboucher.com.

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