“Too much at once is never a good idea.” – Sen. Toni Boucher

January 30, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Greenwich Time

Teacher evaluations using student test scores are delayed

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed a package of revisions to the state’s new teacher-evaluation system, which would push back the use of standardized test scores in the assessments and give districts more flexibility with teacher observations — recommendations that were welcomed by Greenwich education officials Wednesday.

Malloy recommends allowing districts to exclude standardized-test data from evaluations next year. He also suggests permitting districts to reduce the number of formal teacher observations that they conduct and streamlining educators’ data-management requirements.

At Malloy’s urging, the group that developed the controversial SEED teacher evaluation system passed revised guidelines on Wednesday that will give all districts through March to seek a waiver through the 2014-15 school year.

“It is apparent we are trying to do a lot of things at once,” Malloy told members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee. “Teachers are stressed. We have to recognize that.–

Malloy also advocated to the advisory committee for the development of a working committee, comprising classroom teachers and administrators, to share obstacles in carrying out the evaluations and offer recommendations to improve the new system.

SEED, short for the System for Educator Evaluation and Development, went into effect at the start of this school year in Greenwich and public-school districts throughout the state. It was created through education-reform legislation backed by Malloy and passed in 2012 by the state General Assembly. Its launch this year coincides with the implementation in Connecticut of the Common Core State Standards and Common Core-aligned exams developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Greenwich district administrators have reported a generally successful transition so far to SEED. But they have also registered dissatisfaction with the state’s approach in implementing the new system, which has required modifying Greenwich’s homegrown “TEPL” teacher-evaluation framework.

“One of the biggest concerns we’ve had with SEED is that the state had a one-size-fits-all model and didn’t recognize that there were several districts like Greenwich that had already been working on teacher-evaluation plans that were rigorous and comprehensive,” said Deputy Superintendent Ellen Flanagan. “It was disheartening to say the least for the state to come in and have no recognition or acknowledgement of what you were already doing.”

Carol Sutton, president of the Greenwich teachers union, the Greenwich Education Association, also backed the proposed changes.

“The notion that this sea change in teaching and learning K-12 could actually occur simultaneously with the Common Core, SBAC and the added stress of a completely new evaluation system is ludicrous,” she said. “We have to slow down.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Barbara O’Neill, a former teacher in the Greenwich district, took a similar position.

“I think anything that’s going to slow down the process, so everyone gets a good grasp of the changes, will benefit the students and teachers,” she said. “It will also give you accurate data on the SBACs and any other assessments that you’re using. Change comes slowly.”

Flexibility regarding the required quantity of teacher observations will be a significant change from what the state had mandated. But the delay in using standardized-test data will likely be less dramatic, given that Greenwich already had planned not to use SBAC results as baseline data for teachers’ student-performance goals until the 2015-16 school year.

Despite widespread unhappiness throughout the state with the recent changes, Superintendent of Schools William McKersie maintains resolute support for the Common Core.

“It is essential that this district, state and nation continue on strongly with the Common Core,” he said. “We need the Common Core to get us to the level of education that our students need and demand. These are very well-conceived, developmentally appropriate standards.”

Many legislators also have expressed support for the proposed SEED changes, including Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a ranking member of the Legislature’s Education Committee.

“Too much at once is never a good idea,” she said.

Malloy’s plan is expected to gain requisite approval next week by the state Board of Education. The state must also amend its waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which details the state’s teacher-evaluation process.

State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, meanwhile, announced that he is withdrawing a plan to spend $1 million on a Common Core marketing campaign.