Confronted by frustrated teachers, administrators, and parents in an election year, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders are asking the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council to give school districts the flexibility to delay the new teacher evaluation system, which was scheduled to go into effect simultaneously with new Common Core State Standards. The Education Department also announced Tuesday that it was killing plans to spend $1 million on a public relations campaign to promote the Common Core.
“Since the beginning of the school year, we have heard from teachers and administrators voicing their concerns that too much change is hitting their classrooms at once,” Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, and Senate President Donald Williams said in a joint letter to the council, which is meeting this morning.
“This confluence of changes jeopardizes the success of our teachers, and thus our students,” they wrote. “We’ve hear their concerns loud and clear, and understand.”
The letter, which was delivered to the council on Tuesday, asks the group to give school districts greater flexibility in implementing the evaluations and reducing the number of classroom observations to one. It also asks the council to streamline the data management requirements at the classroom level.
Malloy, Wyman, Sharkey, and Williams asked the council to create a subcommittee of classroom teachers to share the obstacles they face and have them make recommendations to the council, General Assembly, and state Education Board by Jan. 1, 2015, nearly two months after the election.
The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council meets at 9 a.m. today and Malloy is expected to address the group at 10:30 a.m.
Implementation of the teacher evaluations this year was an integral part of Malloy’s education reform package signed into law in 2012. The decision about how much a standardized test or a student’s performance would count as part of a teacher’s evaluation was left up to the council and the state Education Board. The board and the council decided that standardized tests and other student indicators will make up about 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and the rest will be classroom observation, parent and peer surveys, and mutually agreed upon goals.
Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, who is considering a run for governor and is the ranking Republican on the Education Committee, said Tuesday that she’s encouraged to hear that the concerns being expressed by classroom teachers are being heard.
Having just spent a day with educators at Cider Mill School in Wilton, Boucher said she saw first hand how much teachers are being asked to digest in such a limited amount of time. She said it’s also taking students longer to adjust to the new tests.
She said officials can have an education agenda that they set themselves or they can work with the individuals who live in that system every day. She said Malloy made a mistake when he told teachers in his 2012 state-of-the-state address that, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”
She said the decision to slow the process is definitely a political calculation. But it’s one that works in the favor of the more than 45,000 teachers and taxpayers.
Boucher also said she was glad to hear that the Education Department squashed plans to spend $1 million on a public relations campaign to promote the Common Core.
Four companies made a pitch for a contract to promote the new national standards developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, but Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Tuesday that the contract will not be awarded.
“Right now it’s critical to focus our energy on professional support to teachers and educators undertaking the shift necessary to enter the Common Core era,” Pryor said Tuesday in a phone interview.
He said it’s important to provide information regarding the new standards, but for now the state will have to do that without the help of a public relations firm.
Harwinton Teacher Linda Hall said there are others ways to spend $1 million, which will benefit students and teachers directly.
“Teachers have been cut; programs have been cut and more money is spent on resources for testing, national standards and propaganda,” Hall said Tuesday. “We need more educators who work directly with children in the classroom. Our children crave attention and interaction, not more time staring at devices practicing test taking skills.”
House Republicans are expected to hold a press conference on the issue at noon. And the two teacher unions are expected to address the issue after the council meeting.