With less than two weeks left in Connecticut’s legislative session, we have yet to see any genuine effort (beyond the governor’s original proposal) to link evaluations to employment decisions. Instead, we hear time and again that this needs to be delayed for further study and that students can wait for reform. Today’s revelations about bill negotiations and the proposals supported by legislative leaders prove again that they are unwilling to prioritize student learning by making such changes now. The next version of the bill may even gut the hard work conducted so far at the state level to approve a framework for teacher and principal evaluations.
The fact is that many states and large school systems — recognizing that great teachers literally transform kids’ lives — already have built teacher evaluation systems that use student performance data to provide meaningful feedback and to inform important personnel decisions.
The real story status quo defenders don’t want you to hear: 23 states have implemented an evaluation framework similar to the one developed by Connecticut’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council; 19 states use teacher evaluation results to inform dismissal decisions, and; 11 states link tenure to evaluation results.
Indeed, the proposals in the original Senate Bill 24 to link teacher evaluation results with staffing decisions are not untested, scary science experiments — not at all.
Connecticut doesn’t need to re-invent the wheel. ConnCAN, in partnership with 50CAN and Public Impact, is finalizing a study of 10 leading evaluation systems that guide the performance of more than 120,000 educators in 3,135 schools serving more than 1.7 million students. These 10 sites — five districts, three states, one charter management organization, and one graduate school of education — have implemented these changes without any of the hyperbolic consequences predicted by those in Connecticut who seek to water down reform. Teachers aren’t leaving these systems in droves, either by choice or because of arbitrary administrator decisions. In fact, many teachers are improving their craft through the meaningful feedback and training they have received as a result of these evaluations.
How do the reforms proposed in the original version of Senate Bill 24 compare to these systems? Every one of these systems weights student achievement at 40 to 55 percent of a teacher’s final evaluation rating, with some systems devoting the entire weight to student growth on statewide standardized tests. By contrast, only half of the 45 percent weight for student performance in Connecticut’s evaluation system would be based on results from the CMT or CAPT test for teachers in tested grades and subjects.
In all of these systems, evaluation results actually count for something, ranging from informing a teacher’s professional development to dismissal, pay, and tenure status. Seven sites connect evaluation results to pay or increased responsibility. Three connect results to certification. Eight sites connect results to dismissal or tenure status.
Those fighting to protect the status quo want you to believe that the original S.B. 24 proposed something truly radical, but the fact is that we are just now getting with the program. To be sure, this work involves complex decisions about design and implementation. It is difficult, but essential, work. It can be done, as demonstrated by the 10 systems in our forthcoming study and by other states and large school systems nationwide.
We owe it to our students to act as quickly as possible to bring those lessons to Connecticut. The time for study has passed. The clock is ticking and the time for action is now. We must not let fear or uncertainty stand in the way of doing what we know is right for students.
Jennifer Alexander is the vice president of research and partnerships at ConnCAN, a statewide education reform advocacy organization. The ConnCAN/50CAN/Public Impact study of 10 leading teacher evaluation systems will be released in June.