The state’s largest teachers’ union said Monday that the state should permanently eliminate students’ scores on the state’s standardized test from consideration in teachers’ evaluations.
Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said that teachers are spending weeks preparing for standardized tests, “stealing time away from the teaching and learning that is necessary to the students in order to grow academically, socially and emotionally.”
Four years ago, the State Board of Education approved a new teacher evaluation system that included standardized test scores that counted for almost a quarter of a teacher’s review in the grades where the test was administered.
The linkage between students’ performance on the test and a teacher’s evaluation was seen as key to education reforms promoted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as well as the federal U.S. Department of Education.
Waxenberg said the recently-passed federal Every Student Succeeds Act leaves it up to the states to decide whether to link the standardized test to a teacher’s evaluation.
He said the union is proposing that the state continue — as it has under the waiver — not to include state test scores as a factor in the evaluations.
The union is recommending less complicated guidelines for the teacher evaluations, calling for 50 percent of the test to be based on “multiple indicators” of student growth and development; 40 percent on classroom observation or review; and up to 10 percent on professional responsibility. The state’s current system relies on six different categories including parent or peer feedback and the performance of the whole school.
Waxenberg said the proposal “returns precious teaching time back to students and encourages creativity, which has been sidelined for the past few years under the ‘test baby test’ mentality promoted by corporate America.”
Earlier this month the CEA recommended eliminating the Smarter Balanced test and replacing it with another test or possibly doing away with a standardized test completely.
State officials and other advocates for education have supported the linkage between the state standardized test scores and teacher evaluations.
Jeff Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, said he favors retaining that linkage and added, “With the productive involvement of teachers, I believe we can improve the system and make the connection more meaningful.”
Abbe Smith, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, didn’t comment directly on the CEA’s proposal, but said “we look forward to continuing to listen to everyone’s ideas about how we can strengthen the educator evaluation process to deliver even better outcomes for children.”
Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, which has supported linkage between the state test and the evaluations said, “We must have an evaluation system in place to identify struggling teachers and ensure they are able to receive the support they need to master their craft and ensure student improvement. ”
She said that a measure of “student achievement growth” must be part of the evaluation system.
Waxeberg said the plan is for the CEA to bring their proposal to a meeting next week of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council — the group that is charged with making recommendations on the teachers evaluation.
Four years ago, it was the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council that made the recommendation of a teacher evaluation system that included standardized test scores as a factor. The CEA is a member of the council, but Waxenberg said the union representatives at the meeting abstained from voting on that proposal.
Smith said the state has invested $13.5 million in the implementation of the current educator evaluation system, with $4 million of that used to train evaluators and for professional learning.
Read the full document of CEA proposals here