Amid a months-long storm of rhetoric over school reform, representatives of New Haven schools’ labor and management fielded questions from lawmakers about a school reform project that is actually happening, not just proposed.

Garth Harries, New Haven’s school reform “czar,” and David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, outlined the basic structure of New Haven’s two year old teacher evaluation system.

Like Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education package, New Haven’s system ties teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized testing like the Connecticut Mastery Test, but also on the rating of school administrators.

Harries pointed out that since the new evaluation system has been in place, New Haven schools have doubled the state’s performance growth rates on the state’s standardized tests.

He was quick to note, however, that the gains are “far from an aircraft carrier moment” and that there is a lot of work to be done in the city’s schools.

New Haven’s new system employs a 1 to 5 grading system, with 5 being “exemplary” and 1 meaning “needs improvement.”

The point system takes into account both students’ test performance and observations from school administrators.

Under the new system, teachers sit down at the start of the school year with an administrator (such as a principal or vice-principal) to establish class- or student group-specific goals. If a teacher is on track to either receive a 1 or a 5 mark by Nov. 1st, the evaluation system automatically triggers a third party “validation” audit, run by Area Cooperative Educational Services.

Throughout the year, the teacher is subject to classroom observations, and other monitoring. A mid-year conference reassesses goals, measures performance, and issues a tentative rating.

The final rating is issued at a final end-of-year conference between the teacher and the administrator.

The 1 through 5 rating system is based on a matrix that weighs student performance against the other observational-based methodology.

Read more about that here.

Principals are assessed through a similar performance based scheme.

Since the evaluation method’s implementation, 34 of New Haven’s teachers have left the job, 16 of them tenured, and 18 non-tenured.

The departures were not the result of firings, but rather teachers who voluntarily left the job rather than face termination procedures.

Harries said that the departure of 16 low performing teachers was “virtually unheard of” in years past.

The school officials received the hardest line of questioning from Rep. Douglas McCrory D-Hartford, who wanted to know what percentage of an evaluation was based on test scores.

The answer? Roughly 50 percent in CMT or CAPT tested years, with the rest based on the teacher-administrator established goals.

McCrory, who has 18 years experience in Hartford Public Schools, said outside the info session that he was dubious of student- or student group-specific goals. He said if teachers can establish different goals for particular sets of students, this could lead to “tracking.”

McCrory said that he does like the 1-5 point evaluation system, but characterized the system as a “work in progress.”

“I’m trying to figure out how they determine academic success for a child,” he said, saying the process seems too open to subjectivity, based on the presentation.

The legislature’s Education Committee is currently deciding what changes it may make to Malloy’s 163-page reform package. A vote on the package is expected later this week or early next week.