Founder’s Blog

Going National on the Achievement Gaps

If you have been reading this website over the years, you need no introduction to Miguel Cardona. We have been reporting on his many accomplishments since he was chosen as an Alma Exley Scholar in 1998.

Most recently, he has had an article published in a prominent national professional journal, District Administration. His article reported on the State of Connecticut’s initiative to close the achievement gaps in our public schools.


Connecticut has the widest gaps in the nation between the scores of students of color and white students as well between those of low-income students and non-low-income students. Calling this situation unacceptable, the Connecticut General Assembly convened a task force in 2011. The panel’s charge was to study these gaps and recommend solutions. The legislature’s stated goal was to close the gaps by 2020.

Dr. Cardona was named co-chair of the task force. At that time, he was principal of Hanover Elementary School in Meriden. He now serves as assistant superintendent of Meriden Schools. Named as the other co-chair was Toni Harp, then a state senator and now mayor of New Haven.

The task force heard testimony from educators and other experts, and also from children themselves, and submitted a master plan early in 2014. The plan includes a variety of recommendations for actions to close the gaps by 2020.

In his article, Dr. Cardona explains that the task force took an innovative approach to its challenge. This involved examining factors within the schools as well as external causes.

Reflecting this innovative approach, the task force helped create the Interagency Council (IC), to promote collaboration between educators and non-educators in addressing the gaps. This will encourage collaboration among various agencies serving the same children.

In a thought-provoking conclusion to the article, Dr. Cardona goes beyond the scope of the task force’s master plan by calling attention to another gap. This is the gap between spending on incarceration and education, with prisons accounting for nearly five dollars for every dollar spent on schools.

“Unless the funding gap between prisons and schools is reversed, I fear very little will change in the next 25 years,” he wrote. Strong words from a strong advocate for children.

You can read the article at:

I’m delighted that a valued member of the Alma Exley scholarship family has been taking the lead in addressing a vital issue in Connecticut – and that he has received this national recognition.

I wish Dr. Cardona and his task force well in their continuing efforts over the next several years. And I also wish to recognize the work that all of our scholarship recipients are doing in this same cause. In their daily activities on behalf of students across the country, they are surely making a significant difference.

– Woody Exley


Founder’s Blog

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to reflect on the impact of the scholarship program, the accomplishments of our recipients, and developments in the drive to achieve greater diversity in the teaching profession.Your comments are welcome at

Woody portrait 8-27-2016
-Woody Exley


Angelica Gibbs — Master Teacher

tomi gibbs kalin
Master Teacher Angelica Gibbs, right, with her principal, Jenna Kalin, left, and senior
student/advisee Oluwatomisin Ogungbenle.

Over the past 20 years, Alma Exley Scholars have pursued a wide variety of paths within the field of education. Many have matured as outstanding classroom teachers. Others have emerged as principals and as leaders at the district and state levels.

It’s always good to learn about their accomplishments, and it is especially pleasing when a recipient is honored for exemplary work with students.

I was delighted to learn recently that Angelica Gibbs, whom we honored in 2005, has been honored as a Master Teacher. Check out this video in which her students and colleagues speak glowingly of her qualities as an outstanding teacher.

Angie, who grew up in New Haven, graduated from Connecticut College. Her first job was as a Spanish teacher at the Match Charter Public School in Boston. Within two years she earned a master’s degree at Lesley University.

After nine years in Boston, she made a new start by heading west. She signed on as a Spanish teacher at Green Valley Ranch High School, part of the Denver Schools of Science and Technology (DSST) system in Colorado.

After just one year in Denver, she was honored with the designation as a Master Teacher. A master teacher typically has more than six years of experience, has demonstrated strong student achievement, and is a positive contributor to school culture.

Angie teaches Spanish 3 as well as Advanced Placement Spanish and Spanish for Native Speakers to senior students. All of her AP Spanish students passed the AP exam last year — a remarkable achievement — and all of her Spanish 3 students showed tremendous growth over time on their trimester final exams.

She received the honor because of the exam results, her 10 years of experience, and positively strong results in surveys of peers, students, parents and administrators about her teaching, collaboration, communication and leadership.

“I feel honored to earn this distinction after just one year in Denver,” Angie told me. “It’s deeply satisfying to have an impact on the lives of so many young people as a teacher. I hope this kind of recognition inspires others to choose teaching as a career.”

As for me, I’m so pleased for Angie, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to put the spotlight on another of our outstanding Alma Exley Scholars who are making a difference every day in school systems all across the country.

– Woody Exley