In a hastily called press conference, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, called for the resignation of state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.
Outside the Capitol press office Tuesday, McKinney, who also is running for governor, said it had nothing to do with Pryor’s personality or anything he did specifically. He just happens to be the head of the Education Department, which has been charged with implementing the new teacher evaluation system and Common Core Standards.
The confluence of the two new systems have since been slowed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which received a federal waiver to delay implementing a new computer-based test and a new teacher evaluation system that relies more upon student performance and classroom observations than in the past.
“We can’t go forward if teachers and administrators don’t have faith and trust in the people who are charged with implementing those reforms,” McKinney said.
He said he decided about an hour before the press conference to call for Pryor’s resignation. Pryor just happens to be the head of the state agency that’s in charge of implementing these changes, which have caused an uproar among educators, McKinney explained.
“I don’t believe it can go forward successfully under his leadership,” McKinney said of the education reforms adopted in 2012 by the General Assembly.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration made it clear that getting rid of Pryor was not an idea they planned to entertain.
“Time and again, Senator McKinney has proven that there is literally nothing he won’t say if he thinks it will bring him press attention,” Malloy administration Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian said.
“While the administration is working with teachers and parents to improve public education, John McKinney is working to further his political ambitions by scoring political points at the expense of Connecticut’s children,” Ojakian said. “It’s beneath his office and, frankly shameless, even for him.”
McKinney said he was made aware of the problems with the state Education Department and the rollout of the education reforms when he attended a Connecticut Education Association regional meeting of teachers on Jan. 27. More than 500 teachers and administrators expressed their frustration at how the new systems were being implemented.
He said they weren’t just frustrated with the evaluations or the Smarter Balance tests, they were “frustrated with how this was being implement.”
“And the fact that people in our Department of Education weren’t listening to them,” McKinney said. “That clearly, formulates in the person of the commissioner, fairly or unfairly.”
Allan Taylor, chairman of the state Board of Education, disagrees.
“I am confident that the entire State Board of Education rejects the call for Commissioner Pryor’s resignation,” Taylor said in a statement. “Commissioner Pryor is helping to bring Connecticut education to where it needs and ought to be. He has tackled all challenges with great skill and extraordinary energy.”