Senate votes to phase in teacher reviews [Connecticut Post]

June 1, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Connecticut Post

HARTFORD — Minority Republicans in the state Senate tried unsuccessfully to delay implementation of Connecticut’s year-old teacher evaluation program, then voted Wednesday with Democrats to partially phase in the 2012 initiative.

The bill, approved 33-0, next goes to the House of Representatives.

It would delay some of the costs for local school boards by letting them collaborate with neighboring towns on evaluation programs. School districts would be able to ask for waivers of certain evaluation processes, but not for a break from the deadlines of the 2012 education reforms, which require schools to meet teacher-rating requirements by the 2014-15 school year.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, ranking member of the legislative Education Committee, said during the floor debate that the waiver proposal is a good idea, especially for high-performing schools such as those in her Senate district, which includes Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Westport.

Boucher said studies show that children who lag in reading abilities by the third grade have a hard time catching up.

“One of the frightening statistics is that our correctional managers actually look at the data of how many children fail to read in the third grade to plan ahead for the number of actual jail cells and capacities in our prisons,” she said.

Boucher also supported an amendment, offered by Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, that would add an extra yearlong delay in the evaluation process for new teachers. He said the 2012 legislation has become a hidden expense in local school budgets.

“I am looking at systems that are laying off teachers to pay for the evaluation process,” Kissel said. He said the current two-year budget that emerged from Democratic-majority taxing-and-spending committees includes major cuts to school transportation programs.

“What they’re telling us is `Hartford, you don’t have all the answers,’ ” Kissel said. “I think they’ve had it up to their eyeballs right now.”