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Education Committee To Consider Teacher Performance Evaluations and Dropout Age

By GRACE E. MERRITT

March 15, 2011

HARTFORD Bills that would establish a teacher performance evaluation system for school systems and raise the high school dropout age from 17 to 18 will be aired at a hearing Thursday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building.

A statewide teacher's union proposed the evaluation standards, in response to a national movement to tie teacher evaluations to student performance.

AFT Connecticut, a union representing 10,000 teachers, calls for an advisory council to develop a model teacher evaluation system that could be used by local and regional boards of education.

Modeled on New Haven's teacher evaluation procedure, the system would train evaluators, remediate poor teacher performance and establish a dismissal procedure.

"If a teacher's found to be deficient, we will do what we can do to make them better teachers," said state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chairwoman of the education committee. "This is not necessarily to be used as a tool to get rid of a teacher, but to make them better teachers."

The bill also touches on teacher tenure, which generally is awarded after 30 continuous school months of full-time employment in a district. The proposal would allow a teacher who has not yet attained tenure, and who switched districts, to count the immediately preceding teaching job toward tenure.

John Yrchik, executive director of the state's other teachers' union, the Connecticut Education Association, said the group has some concerns about the bill, but he declined to elaborate until the hearing.

State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, the education committee's other chairman, said the evaluation system could go a long way toward avoiding teacher layoff decisions based strictly on seniority rather than performance.

"Any number of groups say it doesn't make sense for districts to have a 'last-in, first-out' policy when it comes to layoffs," Fleischmann said.

The proposal would expand on work already being done by a council of teacher groups, the state Department of Education and other education groups, but would move up the deadlines. The council currently is working to finish its work by 2013, ahead of the 2014 deadline. The proposed legislation calls for the system to be ready by July 2012.

The council was appointed to comply with school reform measures passed last May during the state's unsuccessful quest for millions of federal dollars under the Race to the Top competition. Eventually, the plan is to be able to tie teacher evaluations to student performance.

In addition to the teacher evaluations, the education committee will hear a bill proposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to raise the high school dropout age from 17 to 18.

"The governor wants to encourage graduation rates in the state to increase, giving young people an increased education and an increased opportunity to improve their lives and become success stories," said Malloy's spokesman, David Bednarz.

The hearings will begin Thursday at noon in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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