Union Wants Change To Teacher Evaluations

Union Wants Change To Teacher Evaluations

CT News Junkie, January 25, 2016

by Christine Stuart

Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union wants to make sure the new standardized tests for students is not part of any teacher evaluation. The Connecticut Education Association, which represents 43,000 teachers in Connecticut, said the state should not use any standardized tests as part of teacher evaluations.

The state Education Board adopted the guidelines for the System for Educator Evaluation and Development model on June 27, 2012. Under that system, standardized tests and other student indicators will make up about 45 percent of a teacher’s performance while the rest is made up by classroom observation, parent and peer surveys, and mutually agreed upon goals.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said they are proposing that 50 percent of teacher evaluations involve student growth and development indicators, another 40 percent would involve classroom observation, like the current evaluation system, and 10 percent would be related to professional responsibility. Under CEA’s proposal, no standardized test results would be considered, but other indicators of student learning would be welcomed, as long as they are agreed upon by the teachers in a specific district.

“Our proposal refocuses our evaluation system from treating students as data points on a spreadsheet to recognizing them as points of light to shine brighter by spending more time on learning,” Waxenberg said. The state currently has a two-year waiver, which says the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test can’t be part of a teacher evaluation. Waxenberg said the CEA’s proposal would make that waiver permanent.

He said students and teachers spend weeks preparing for those standardized tests, and the actual testing period drags on for more than 30 days of disruption as students cycle through to use a limited number of computers to take the tests. He said there will be some mastery test given by the state of Connecticut, but “we don’t want to spend eight weeks preparing for it.” And teachers don’t want it to be part of their evaluation.

In 2014, the CEA withdrew its support for the 2012 teacher evaluation method they participated in creating. Sheila Cohen, president of the CEA, had even harsher words Monday for what the teacher evaluation guidelines are doing to students. “Our state’s current teacher evaluation guidelines are actually detrimental to student learning,” Cohen said. “They’re doing more harm than good.” Waxenberg, a former math teacher, said teachers know how to help students learn and the standardized tests shouldn’t be a measurement of that learning. He said student performance should be part of teacher evaluations, but not a standardized test score.

Any other test agreed to by a local school district could count toward that 50 percent of teacher evaluations under the CEA’s proposal. The state Education Department will remain neutral in the debate. “We are proud of the progress made toward that goal and we look forward to continuing to listen to everyone’s ideas about how we can strengthen the educator evaluation process to deliver even better outcomes for children,” Abbe Smith, a spokeswoman for the department, said in a statement. The Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee will meet March 9 at 9 a.m. to discuss teacher evaluations.