Advisory Council Sends Teacher Evaluation Guidelines To State Education Board
Not All Members In Accord; Union Leader Says Evaluation Relies Too Much On Standardized Test Scores
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
June 21, 2012
Despite some members' reservations, a state advisory council agreed Thursday on guidelines for the evaluation of teachers and principals and planned to forward those guidelines to the state Board of Education.
The guidelines, which the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council has been developing for the past few months, provide details on the new evaluation system but also leave much to the discretion of local school districts.
The new evaluation system will tie a teacher's rating to students' standardized test scores, along with many other factors, including announced and unannounced observations by supervisors; students' performance; a teacher's achievement of mutually agreed-upon goals, and possibly feedback from students and parents.
Under new state law passed last month, a teacher must demonstrate "effective" practice to get tenure, said state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, but it will be up to the districts to determine — using the evaluation system — what is effective practice and what is not.
The advisory council did not take a vote, but most members appeared to back the guidelines.
Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and a member of the council, said he plans to attend next Wednesday's state Board of Education meeting and speak in support of the new guidelines.
"I think we made a major step forward," Cirasuolo said, adding that 10 school districts that will begin pilot programs of the new evaluation system this fall will provide clearer information.
"We're going to know a lot more by next January about whether this does work," he said.
While not attempting to block the guidelines from going forward, teachers union leaders had more concerns about the evaluation system and guidelines.
Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the state's largest teachers' union, the Connecticut Education Association, said the evaluation system still relies too heavily on students' standardized test scores.
Under the guidelines, 22.5 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be determined by students' standardized test scores. Another 22.5 percent will be linked to other measures of student performance, which can include a maximum of one additional standardized test and must include at least one non-standardized measure, such as students' projects or portfolios.
"Over-reliance on standardized tests has been proven to be unreliable and risks being misused," Levine said, "and that's what we're concerned is going to happen in Connecticut — just like it's happened in places that have already tried this and have failed."
Sharon Palmer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, said she disagrees with certain parts of the guidelines — she also believes standardized tests are overly used. But, she said, "this is an important body of work, and it needs to move forward."
She is said she is comfortable knowing that the system will be reviewed after the pilot program.
The advisory council has been working to complete the guidelines in time to get them to the state Board of Education, which must approve them by July 1.
The guidelines are particularly crucial as the state launches its $2.5 million pilot program of the new evaluation systems.
In the following school year, 2012-2013, the new evaluation system is scheduled to be used statewide. However, the new evaluation system will not be used to determine tenure and other personnel decisions until the 2014-2015 school year.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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