Teachers Voice Concerns Over Education Reform Plan [The Daily Westport]

March 2, 2012

Article as it appeared in The Daily Westport
by Vanessa Inzitari

WESTPORT, Conn. – Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal for education reform, including plans for stricter teacher evaluations, makes some educators such as Westport teacher Kerstin Warner feel vulnerable.

Warner, a teacher in the gifted program at Bedford Middle School, told Westport and Weston state legislators that she and many of her colleagues believe school administrators would be given too much power under the proposed reforms.

“I fear what would happen to me if the administration took a disliking to me and gave me poor evaluations. My license could go down; I can lose my job and not get hired in another district,” Warner, who has been teaching for 26 years, said during Wednesday night’s public forum. It was led by state Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican; Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat; Rep. John Shaban, a Republican; and Sen. John McKinney, a Republican.

Under the proposed education reforms, a new four-level rating system for teacher evaluations would be imposed. The evaluations would focus heavily on student growth and development.

“I feel this reduces us from teachers to line items,” Warner said. “This is the first year I’ve felt incredibly vulnerable. Why? Simply because I see administrators can hire two beginning teachers for the price of one veteran teacher.”

Staples High School teacher Angela Simpson echoed Warner’s concerns. She said she finds it troubling that student performance will weigh heavily on teacher evaluations because a number of factors outside the classroom can affect a student’s performance.

Simpson also expressed concern over changes to teacher certification and tenure. Under the proposal, certification would be changed to three levels: “initial,” “professional” and “master,” and would be based on performance instead of seat time-based regulations. Tenure would also be awarded based on readiness, not time, and would essentially be based on evaluations.

“I think about the tens of thousands I spent on my education, going beyond a master’s,” Simpson said. “I’d like to be reassured that that would be weighed into how I’m evaluated.”

John Horrigan, a teacher and librarian at Coleytown Middle School, told the state legislators he believes the proposed reforms, as written, would discourage people from going into the education field.

Steinberg, who represents Westport, said the proposal is meant to get legislators thinking. He told the educators in attendance not give up hope.

“Don’t get discouraged yet. It’s too early to be discouraged,” he said. “It would be a tragedy for our students in Connecticut if our teachers decide prematurely that it’s all over.”