Advisory Council Reaches Compromise On Teachers' Evaluations
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
May 31, 2012
HARTFORD — With two members in disagreement, a state advisory council reached a complicated compromise Thursday on the hotly-disputed role of considering students' test scores in teacher evaluations.
"We cleared a major hurdle today," said state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, who did not back the consensus but did not try to block it, said the compromise relies too heavily on standardized test scores.
"It's not like we are trying to be obstructionists," Levine said. But, she said, other indicators of a teacher's performance — such as students' behavior and attendance — also should be given weight.
"What you do as a teacher beyond driving test scores should be as important … as how well somebody does on a standardized test," Levine said.
The consensus Thursday brought clarity to a part of the evaluation framework that the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council approved in January, which said 45 percent of an evaluation would be would be based on student performance, with half that measure — 22.5 percent — based on standardized test scores.
But in mid-May disagreement broke out over the other 22.5 percent. Teachers union leaders on the council contended that this portion of a teacher's evaluation was to include other measures of student performance — such as student portfolios or projects — but not standardized tests. Council members representing school administrators and boards of education insisted they were certain it could include tests.
At Thursday's meeting, Pryor proposed that teachers and administrators be allowed — by mutual consent — a maximum of one standardized test and a minimum of one non-test indicator as part of the disputed 22.5 percent. He said that local districts would be allowed to assign the weight given to these elements.
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, also agreed not to block the council members' consensus but argued that teachers and administrators should be allowed to reach their own agreements about what to include in the disputed 22.5 percent.
The teacher evaluation framework approved by the council in January also takes into account other factors, including observation of a teacher's performance in the classroom and peer and parent feedback.
Pryor said he hopes to see "a diversity of approaches" in the eight to 10 school districts that will test the new evaluation system in a pilot program beginning this fall. He said an analysis of the pilot project will consider whether there is an over-reliance on standardized tests and also if the compromise approved Thursday is too restrictive.
The state Department of Education plans Friday to notify the districts selected to participate in the pilot program.
The advisory committee has more issues to address in the next few weeks and a tight deadline. The council is expected to present guidelines on the teacher evaluation system to the state Board of Education for its approval by July 1.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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