Christine Stuart photo
Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Christine Stuart photo)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to make sure Connecticut students don’t have to take two standardized tests next year. That’s why he asked the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee and the state Education Board to apply for a federal waiver that will give the state more flexibility.

The PEAC committee, which is in charge of the teacher evaluation process, unanimously approved the waiver application Wednesday shortly after Malloy’s visit and brief pep talk. The state Education Board is expected to take up the application at its meeting on Monday, July 15.

“Testing will take place, but we want to give the districts in the coming academic year a choice on which test they want to work with,” Malloy said.

The No Child Left Behind Act required states to set their own standards and decide what score a student must achieve to be considered prepared. As a result, a lot of states set a low standard so more kids would appear proficient. Common Core standards set a national bar defined under the congressionally mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress. That means when it’s implemented, scores are likely to drop.

School districts in Connecticut will be given an option of using the new common core standards test or one of the legacy state tests such as the CMT or the CAPT.

But with 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation based on student performance, the stakes couldn’t be higher for teachers. State officials also delayed tying teacher evaluations to student test scores for another year as they work on implementing the evaluation process — a key component of Malloy’s 2012 education reform package.

The Common Core standards, which were spearheaded by the National Governors Association, are expected to be implemented by 2015 with the hope that at least 85 percent of the curricula will be based on the standards. At least 45 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to implement the standards.

Malloy said he would leverage his position as education committee chairman of the National Governors Association to advocate for the feds to approve Connecticut’s waiver. 

“We want to support states that would like to avoid double-testing students, which as you know often happens during the shift to a new test,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, wrote to states in June. “Therefore, we would consider requests from states for a one-year waiver, to allow schools participating in these field tests to administer only one assessment in 2013-14 to any individual student — either the current statewide assessment or the field test.”

AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters asked Malloy if he could extend the waiver into the 2014-15 school year as well.

“We’re not saying ‘no’ to anything,” Malloy told Peters. “We’re trying to move forward.”

He said he’s not closing the door on the idea, but he wants the state to move steadily toward implementing the Common Core standards. He said he hopes there’s robust participation on a volunteer basis.

“If I was a superintendent I would want my students having an extra year understanding that test,” Malloy said.

Next school year, districts will get to decide whether they will offer the Common Core standards test or the legacy state test, but not both, Malloy said.

Last month, lawmakers passed a bill that gives school districts more time to implement the teacher and administrator evaluation system. Instead of one year to implement the program, school districts will now have two years. It also delayed for six months the intensive reading assessment for kindergarten through third grade. In addition, the bill specifies that the teacher evaluation process is not a mandated part of collective bargaining, but a subject that may be discussed.

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