After dithering for about two years, a statewide advisory panel has finally agreed on a new performance standard for evaluating teacher performance that for the first time in Connecticut places significant emphasis on student achievement -- including test scores and work samples.
The new standard proposed by the state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council -- a group representing teachers, administrators and school boards -- will likely be considered by the State Board of Education in February. It was described by council member Joseph Cirasuolo as "a major step forward."
It is indeed a step in the right direction. Calling it "major" might be pushing it.
Under the new system, 45 percent of a teacher's evaluation would be based on various measures of student achievement, with about half based on standardized test scores. Other indicators could include portfolios of student work.
So that means that less than 25 percent of a teacher's evaluation would be based on student test scores, which are the most objective indicators of achievement.
Another 15 percent would be based on feedback from a teacher's peers, students and parents; at least a third of that would come from how well an entire school is performing and on student feedback.
The remaining 40 percent of the evaluation would be based on observing the teacher at work -- the way teachers have historically been evaluated.
Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, sees "wiggle room" in the Connecticut proposal that could weaken it.
She said her primary concern is the extent to which a teacher's performance is judged by more subjective criteria than student test results. "If a lot of 'mooshy' stuff is allowed in that other half, it could really weaken and soften the measures," Ms. Jacobs said. "We've certainly seen examples of that over time."
Measuring performance by rigorous standards can't help but improve teacher effectiveness in a state that has too many students lagging far behind or dropping out.
The State Board of Education should consider giving more weight to student achievement in teacher evaluations.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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