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State Board Of Education Approves Guidelines For Teacher Evaluations


June 27, 2012

The State Board of Education approved guidelines Wednesday for a new system that will tie student performance to teacher evaluations.

The State Board of Education approved guidelines Wednesday for a new system that will tie student performance to teacher evaluations.

Under the new system, teacher evaluations will be based on several factors, including students' standardized test scores, announced and surprise observations by supervisors, achievement of mutually agreed-upon teacher goals, and possibly, student and parent recommendations.

Under a new state law passed last month, a teacher must demonstrate "effective" practices to get tenure. Each school district will determine what is effective practice, using the new evaluation process, and then the state will review each plan for approval.

The new evaluation system and guidelines were developed over the past 18 months by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which included representatives of teachers, administrators, school boards and state officials. Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the the advisory council reached consensus on the guidelines, but added that there remains disagreement, including "profound disagreement" on certain issues.

Joseph Vrabely Jr., a member of the state board, said the guidelines are "something I can get behind," though he said, "I know a lot of things have to shake out." He added that the evaluation system — which will feature four performance levels including exemplary, proficient, developing and below standard — will give teachers and the adminstrators "a communication tool… If someone is underperforming, it should not be a surprise to them."

But some board members raised questions about how exactly an "exemplary" performance is defined or what "developing" means.

Pryor emphasized that a $2.5 million pilot of the new evaluation system that will begin in September in 16 districts will help to identify what is working and what is not. Pryor also stressed that professional development for teachers is a major aspect of the new evaluation system.

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connection Assocation of Public School Superintendents, and others from a school board association and other educational groups, spoke positively about the new evaluation system.

"We are committed to making this work," Cirasuolo said. He said that if this evaluation system is put in place he hopes to see the state "finally get to the point where we can say that every child … will learn what they need to know" to lead "productive lives."

Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association and a member of the advisory council, said that she would not try to block the guidelines, although she said the evaluation system relies too heavily on 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, including student projects or portfolios.

Levine said Wednesday that she fears the new evaluation system will drive "more people out of the profession than it will bring in."

"I think it's extremely onerous," Levine said. "I think it's going to have unintended consequences and I think that it's cumbersome and expensive… I think the focus is too much on teachers and not enough on the real roots of the achievement gap."

Levine said that closing the achievement gap would be a "massive undertaking" because it would require desegregating the schools "and doing things nobody wants to talk about. It's much easier to talk about bad teachers and it's real inexpensive."

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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