Thursday afternoon Gov. Dannel P. Malloy faced a scrum of reporters from across the state who grilled him about his education reform package.
This time, however it wasn’t the grizzled, grumpy, and jaded reporters that normally hassle the governor about his policies. It was high school students from Willimantic to Westport who write for their high school newspapers..
They were looking for answers about Malloy’s education package, and some of these cub reporters were pretty tough.
At town hall meetings across the state, the governor has drawn attention to Connecticut’s largest in the nation achievement gap. At Thursday’s roundtable however, student reporters from towns on both ends of the achievement spectrum had problems with elements of Malloy’s reform package.
Molly Sczucka, from Torrington High School, questioned Malloy about the logic of basing a small part of teacher evaluations on parental input, as students often give their parents a fairly colored view of their teachers.
Under the new evaluation system an administrator’s observation of a teacher counts as 40 percent of the rating. Student performance counts as 45 percent, and parent and student feedback makes up the rest.
Malloy sought to broaden Sczucka’s question.
“You think parents are uninformed?” he asked.
Malloy would often turn the questions back on the students, using the analogy of SAT scores or grades, saying he simply wanted to keep teachers accountable.
Andre Sommerville, a junior at John F. Kennedy High School and a writer for the school’s Eagle-Flyer, told the governor he worried about a situation in which teachers would begin to feel surveilled in a manner that was “Big Brother-y” under a new evaluation system, referring to Orwell’s 1984.
“I think there’s a lot of fear being fed,” Malloy said noting as he often does that both teacher unions had agreed to evaluation guidelines.
Afterwards, Sommerville said that he is “getting to see how important journalism is.”
“He was very confident in his plan, and I think that was a little bit intimidating for the questioners,” Sommerville said.
Sommerville was up to the task though. Was he excited to talk to the governor?
“Oh yeah, its not everyday you get to see him. And in my case, to argue with him a little bit.”