Teachers Voice Concerns About Malloy’s Education Reform Plan [Avon Patch]

March 8, 2012

State Sen. Kevin Witkos and state Rep. Tim LeGeyt hear feedback about the plan at forum in Avon.

Article as it appeared in the Avon Patch on March 8, 2012

By Jessie Sawyer

When it comes to the state of Connecticut’s achievement gap, who is responsible, the teachers, students or parents?

At a forum hosted by state Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-8th, and state Rep. Tim LeGeyt, R-17th, Wednesday at Avon High School, teachers from the Farmington Valley to Torrington voiced concerns that Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package places the blame on them.

Some pointed to outside sources of students’ struggles in school.

“The culture is not there in the family in the home. We have an anti-education culture in this country and in this state,” said Janet Schwartz, a seventh grade English teacher at Avon Middle School. “I would like to know how the governor is going to change the culture of this state.”

In Malloy’s proposal, teachers will be evaluated on student achievement and test score results as a basis for determining their certification status. Teachers in the audience said they should not be evaluated on what they can’t control.

Avon High School English teacher Jim Quigley, addressing Witkos who is a Canton police officer, likened it to blaming a cop for an increase in crime.

“Teachers are afraid,” Witkos told Patch after the forum. “All they want to do in the classrooms is teach kids.”

At a stop in West Hartford on Tuesday, Malloy said teachers unions negotiated this evaluation system “through a two-year process,” West Hartford Patch reported.

“Should we just maintain the status quo?” Malloy said on Tuesday.

Malloy wrote to the Connecticut General Assembly that the education reform package values “skill and effectiveness over seniority and tenure.”

“Teacher tenure reform is one of his biggest goals in this legislative session,” Witkos said.

Educator certification would include three pay levels, as established in collective bargaining agreements effective July 1, 2014, according to the proposal. Witkos outlined them for the audience:

Initial: Before tenure.

Professional: Tenure is achieved; a master of arts degree would be required for struggling teachers renewing this certification

Master: This is the highest level of certification; teachers would be required to have an “evaluation-aligned” master’s degree.

“Now, we’re saying you don’t have to have [a master’s degree],” Rosanne Civittolo, first grade teacher at Roaring Brook School, said. “It’s like you’re degrading the quality of teacher you’re going to have because you’re not requiring that of them.”

LeGeyt said that the best way to judge a teacher’s performance is not quantifiable — “the ability of teachers to inspire.”

He said it was “inefficient to shove this much change through all at once.”

“It’s a big one, unprecedented,” LeGeyt said, comparing it to a flood. “It’s going to completely change the landscape of state of Connecticut.”

One part of education reform that teachers endorsed was giving families more access to high-quality education early on.

“Until we have quality early childhood education, we’re going to have an achievement gap,” Simsbury resident Margaret Gaines, an elementary school reading teacher in Torrington, said.

She pointed out that education reform could be costly and affect municipal budgets.

“Education can’t resolve all of society’s problems, but I think this bill is making an attempt to do that,” Legeyt said.