How Long Will We Wait? It's Time for Connecticut to Finally Reform Teacher Evaluation

The world is filled with extraordinary achievements that have been accomplished within five-year periods. We built and developed nuclear capabilities with the Manhattan Project between 1942-1946. We built the first entirely steam-powered railway— Liverpool and Manchester Railway—between 1826-1830. And, it took only five years for Uber to offer a billion rides. Yet, Connecticut cannot muster up the political will to inform parents, taxpayers and students that teacher evaluations are linked to student outcomes. Despite Connecticut’s position as a leader on educator evaluation, for the third straight year the Performance Education Advisory Council, or PEAC, has voted to delay SB 380—an act linking student achievement to teacher evaluation. (The PEAC was created in 2010 by the General Assembly to effectively evaluate educator performance.) The Council has delayed presenting its proposal to the state board of education until April. The vote came two days after a marathon 12-hour hearing that included testimony in opposition of SB 380 from a coalition of education advocacy groups, school board members, superintendents, parents and clergy. Particularly compelling was the testimony of the Rev. Carl McCluster:
We tell our children that the cream will always rise to the top. What are we saying to them when we discard evaluation of measurable results as a benchmark of understanding the effectiveness and value of the many teachers who do not fear making their earnest efforts and excellent accomplishment known?
The real losers here are teachers, leaders, kids and parents—many of whom are clamoring to link teacher evaluations to their child’s progress. If there is a silver lining to the PEAC vote, it's that the decision to delay does not disrupt the progress of districts where evaluations linked to student achievement are working well. Those districts can continue to move forward in including student achievement in evaluations next year. Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), rightly expressed disappointment at the delay and encouraged the state to take action. Alexander noted that by the time the delay is lifted, the state will have three years of student achievement growth data from the new assessments, which measure how well students are meeting college- and career-ready standards. In a ConnCAN press release Alexander  stated further that:
All professionals should be evaluated and held accountable based on how well they do their job—especially when they are charged with preparing our children for success in life. Student achievement growth and student academic outcomes must be linked to professional educators’ evaluations. Parents, taxpayers and students cannot afford to wait. Adult professionals entrusted to educate our future leaders must be accountable for their job performance.
In a Connecticut State Department of Education educator evaluation and support system teacher survey, 94.6 percent of teachers responding reported they met or exceeded their student growth targets for the 2014-15 academic year. Yet, the teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA),  continues to oppose linking evaluations to student performance. Is the union  that out of step with its members? The obvious truth, again, is that an important step toward making school better for students and teachers has been thwarted by the CEA. While they rally every year for more public dollars for schools, they go to war on valuable accountability measures that have the support of every stakeholder group except theirs. Time after time the CEA has shown that they do not consider student outcomes to be a priority.
Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting ...

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