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Linking Student Scores to Teacher Evaluations — May 3, 2016

Linking Student Scores to Teacher Evaluations

As teachers in Connecticut continue to proctor SBAC tests, here are a few articles on the subject of testing and teacher evaluations.

Here is a New York Times article on how  how socioeconomic status plays a dominate role in achievement.

Opinion essay  from the New Haven Register advocating against linking student scores to teacher evaluations.

Education week article highlighting how students with disabilities score relatively poorly compared to regular education students.

CT Mirror article on possibility of teacher evaluations becoming public information in aggregate form.

The Atlantic also has an article on why teachers might feel compelled to inflate scores on tests.


S.B. 380 Makes it Out of Committee! — March 19, 2016

S.B. 380 Makes it Out of Committee!

Yesterday the Education Committee of the CT legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 380, which de-couples SBAC scores from TEVAL. The bill can now go before the full legislature for a vote, which can occur anytime before the session closes on May 4.

You can follow progress of the bill here

You can view the names of legislators who voted for and against the bill here.

Ask Legislators to Decouple SBAC Scores from TEVAL — March 11, 2016

Ask Legislators to Decouple SBAC Scores from TEVAL

One of AFT Connecticut’s top legislative priorities this session is to decouple student scores on state mastery examinations (SBAC and SAT) from teacher evaluations.  The Education Committee has raised and held a public hearing on a bill we fully support: 

SB 380 An Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance Results on the Mastery Examination from Teacher Evaluations (see link below)

An article in the Hartford Courant on this issue can be found here.

 In order to ensure we have enough votes to JF (pass) this bill out of the Education Committee next week, please contact your legislators today and ask them to co-sponsor SB 380

Use the link at the top of this BFT web page to find your legislators.

Some talking points are below:

 It’s important that teacher evaluations not be based on student test scores.  High quality instruction should arm students with the breadth and depth of knowledge they need to be truly well-educated individuals and develop their capacity to problem-solve, think critically and approach challenges with ingenuity.   Yet, almost one-quarter of current teacher evaluation systems are based on student standardized test scores, which quells instructional creativity, innovation and collaboration.  Much research demonstrates that the value of high stakes standardized testing is limited in its ability to inform instruction and provide a complete picture of student achievement. Standardized tests also do not account for social, emotional and economic factors that may impact a student’s ability to reach his or her greatest potential.

 The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents new opportunities for instructional shifts in the classroom. It dispenses responsibility for developing teacher accountability systems to the states and permits the use of student achievement indicators other than standardized test scores; such coursework, school or district developed tests and other diagnostic assessments.  SB 380 takes full advantage of the groundwork laid by ESSA.  It appropriately excludes the use of student scores on statewide mastery examinations in teacher evaluations.  It places instructional emphasis on deep issue knowledge and analytical skills, rather test preparation. 

TEVAL Overhaul? — February 13, 2016

TEVAL Overhaul?

CT teacher evaluations headed for an overhaul

How public school teachers are evaluated in Connecticut needs an overhaul. On that much, educators on the state panel that determines how teachers are graded agree.

But on why and how it should be done, the consensus evaporates.

The representatives of school boards and superintendents are troubled by lopsided ratings, which show nearly every teacher as proficient or exemplary, the two top ratings.

But many other members of the panel – called the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council – are unhappy because student performance on statewide standardized tests accounts for nearly one-quarter of a teacher’s rating.

The leaders of the statewide unions representing principals and teachers, as well as the executive directors of two regional school districts – in all, eight of the 14 PEAC members at last week’s meeting – agreed that decisions about the use of testing in evaluations should be left to a locally appointed panel.

“It should not be mandated what test is used or not used,” Miguel Cardona, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Meriden Public Schools,

Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell was receptive to the idea of letting local officials decide which test to use in evaluating teachers and to no longer requiring that it be the statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment.

She also raised the idea of having a separate evaluation system for novice teachers to better reflect whether they are improving at the appropriate pace and to avoid grouping them with low-achieving teachers who have worked in the district for years.

But Wentzell made clear the panel would not be making any immediate changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system, which was one of the centerpieces of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2012 education reforms.

Despite mounting criticism and an alternative evaluation system proposed last month by the state’s largest teachers’ union, Wentzell said any changes would have to wait until the panel explores whether the current system is working.

“I believe analyzing our successes and failures in the last three years is action,” Wenztell said, acknowledging changes may be warranted. “It’s impossible to know that until we have the conversations.”

“So process is our product,” Mark Waxenberg, the executive director of the state’s largest teachers union, responded testily. “I just need to know when this body is going to take action. … One of the things is decouple the testing. Either you are in favor of it or you are not in favor of it.”

It wasn’t that simple for some.

“I think we need data on which to base our decisions. It seems to me there are good and bad aspects, and all we are hearing here is we have got to get the test out,” said Robert Rader, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. “I want to know what role superintendents, principals, teachers, see tests playing. Do they believe it’s helpful? We need to know that before this group decides to kill it.”

“Are they really all exemplary?” asks Joe Cirasuolo, of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

“The standardized tests give you something quantitative that you can start with,” Rader said.

Educators also outlined numerous things they like with the new evaluation system. That includes that it helps foster regular conversations between teachers and their principals to identify areas for improvement as well as providing avenues for professional development.

An assessment of the state’s evaluation system has not been completed since its pilot year three school years ago, when researchers at the University of Connecticut reported that more than half the teachers they surveyed found their evaluation provided them no added value. Forty-two percent of teachers surveyed by UConn said that, given sufficient professional development resources – such as time and staffing – the new evaluation system would lead to improved teaching.

The results of the evaluations have been shrouded in secrecy ever since, and it has been impossible for the public or media to see whether the new state-mandated system is improving the profession.

But lawyers representing the state in a school-funding trial decided to release the results of the evaluations recently as proof that the lowest-achieving schools throughout the state are filled with great teachers.

Statewide result show that last school year 546 teachers (1 percent of the state’s nearly 50,000 teachers) were evaluated as either “below standard” or “developing,” the two lowest ratings. The results were nearly identical to those in the 2013-14 school year. The vast majority received ratings of “proficient” or “exemplary.”

With such lopsided results, leaders of the groups that represent superintendents and school boards question the accuracy of the ratings.

“The thing I want to find out from principals, how do the ratings of their teachers align with their perceptions of those people. Are they really all exemplary? Or is that just how the calculation came out. We need to get some verification,” said Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. “Everyone’s really above average? Let’s talk to the principals and find out.”

Members of the panel all seemed to agree that the evaluation system is too rigid. Teacher evaluations are based on classroom observations (40 percent) anonymous parent or peer surveys (10 percent), improved student test scores (22.5 percent), carrying out teaching objectives (22.5 percent), and schoolwide test scores or student surveys (5 percent).

Several educators pointed out the formula lets them control only 40 percent of their teachers’ ratings.

“We know. We can tell who the good ones are,” said Cirasuolo. He said changes may be needed to give principals and others doing evaluations more discretion.

Officials at the State Department of Education said, however, there needs to be a balance between rating teachers based purely on subjective inputs and measures of whether students are actually learning in a teacher’s classroom.

“I worry a little bit on relying on perceptions and, ‘I know how my teachers are doing,’ without a sharp lens toward standards and practice. We need percentages. That says we value the student growth piece and the practice piece, but there may need to be some more room for the professional judgement,” said Sarah Barzee, the agency’s chief talent officer.

Members who resisted ending the use of test scores in evaluations without more information were Barzee, Wentzell, Cirasuolo and the two panel members representing the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the member representing the Connecticut Association of Schools.

The panel meets again the first week of March.

CEA Calls for Test Scores to Be Dropped from TEVAL — January 26, 2016

CEA Calls for Test Scores to Be Dropped from TEVAL

Union Calls For Dropping State Test Scores From Teachers’ Eval

Kathleen Megan –  Hartford Courant
Teachers Union Wants To Drop Student Performance On State Test From Teacher Evaluations

 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

BFT Contract Survey — June 5, 2014

BFT Contract Survey

Below is the link for the survey that will be used to advise the BFT when negotiations for the next contract begin in August. The next contract will be effective July 1, 2015 to June 30 2018. All BFT members are asked to complete the survey before June 20, 2014.

What issues are important to you? Rank them in order of importance and make additional comments. The survey is designed to take 5 to 10 minutes.

Here is the link:

Yet More Changes for Teacher Evaluations — April 24, 2014

Yet More Changes for Teacher Evaluations

As we informed you earlier this week, your union leaders have remained fully engaged in a collaborative process to address the many issues resulting from implementation of new teacher evaluations. Today, along with our public education allies, we moved the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to recommend changes to the state’s guidelines that our member teachers have been advocating for.
The proposals we shared with you on Tuesday were unanimously approved by PEAC:
Separating student tests – teacher evaluations will not be based upon a single standardized student test score.
Neutral dispute resolution – a subcommittee of a local district’s Professional Development and Evaluation Committee (PDEC) will review unresolved disputes.
Clarifying “performance” in ratings – the definition for each of four evaluation designators will be clarified to reflect progress toward achieving goals.
While all three are significant improvements, the first will no doubt be the most welcome. “De-linking” teacher evaluations from a single test score and focusing on “growth over time” is a major step forward for all of Connecticut’s educators and their students.
The next step is for these recommendations to be submitted to the State Board of Education for formal adoption at their regular meeting on May 7.
More to come, and in solidarity,
Melodie Peters
President, AFT Connecticut
Steve McKeever
First Vice-President, AFT Connecticut
Jean Morningstar
Second Vice-President, AFT Connecticut
Patti Fusco
Pre-K-12 Jurisdictional Vice-President, AFT Connecticut
Smarter Balanced Delayed One Week! — March 14, 2014

Smarter Balanced Delayed One Week!


One of the two state consortia developing exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards is giving itself an additional week to iron out any glitches before field-testing begins.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which counts 23 states as members, had planned to begin field-testing March 18. Schools will now begin the process on March 25, according to a consortium official. (Twenty-two states and the U.S. Virgin Islands are involved in Smarter Balanced field-testing; Pennsylvania is an “advisory” state and isn’t participating.)

The delay isn’t about the test’s content, officials said: It’s about ensuring that all the important elements, including the software and accessibility features (such as read-aloud assistance for certain students with disabilities) are working together seamlessly.

“There’s a huge amount of quality checking you want to do to make sure that things go well, and that when students sit down, the test is ready for them, and if they have any special supports, that they’re loaded in and ready to go,” Jacqueline King, a spokeswoman for Smarter Balanced, said in a March 14 interview. “We’re well on our way through that, but we decided yesterday that we needed a few more days to make sure we had absolutely done all that we could before students start to take the field tests.”

Field-testing will take place through June 6. Some 3 million students in 20,000 schools are participating. Smarter Balanced expects most of the schools that would be affected by the delay to reschedule sometime during the field-test window. The group will also offer a “make-up week” from June 7-13 for schools that request it.

Most importantly, the brief delay won’t delay the next steps in development, during which researchers analyze the results of the field tests to make sure that all of the test items are working as expected and generating the appropriate information.

“It won’t have any impact on the subsequent work that we need to do,” King said.

It’s not entirely clear how many schools are affected. Some states don’t have any schools in the first week of testing.

In most states, those students participating in the field tests take them in only one subject, English/language arts or mathematics. Five states are testing nearly all their students, and some of those, like California, are giving some version of the tests in both subjects to meet the U.S. Department of Education’s “double testing” waiver requirements.

The other testing group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, still plans to begin field-testing March 24.

Governor Signs Executive Order – Creates “Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce” — March 11, 2014

Governor Signs Executive Order – Creates “Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce”

 March 11, 2014
Asks Those Directly Impacted by Common Core to Identify Challenges and Make Recommendations for Improving Implementation Efforts
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that he has signed an executive order creating the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce – a group that will be comprised of teachers, parents and administrators with the goal of identifying challenges and gaps in Common Core preparation, and making recommendations on improving the quality and consistency of its implementation.
“We have an obligation to ensure that all children in the State of Connecticut receive a quality education that will provide them with the necessary tools to lead successful lives in today’s global economy,” Governor Malloy said.  “Seeking the input of the teachers and education professionals who are directly involved in the day-to-day activities of our public school system, along with parents, will help the state in our efforts to improve our schools.”
In May 2009, former Governor M. Jodi Rell and former Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan signed a memorandum of agreement committing to a state-led process to lead to the development and eventual adoption of a Common Core set of standards.  In July 2010, the State Board of Education adopted the resulting college and career-ready student expectations — the Common Core State Standards.
Since that time, the State of Connecticut has committed funds to support professional development and investments in new technology in order to help school districts prepare for its implementation.
Last November, Governor Malloy announced over $24 million in grant requests to bring more computers into classrooms and increase internet bandwidth, which will provide vital support to students, teachers, and school districts as local efforts accelerate to complete the transition to Common Core.  In the current biennial budget, Governor Malloy proposed $14.6 million for training and coaching for educators.
“Connecticut teachers and education professionals have raised legitimate concerns that preparations for the implementation of Common Core State Standards and the incorporation of Common Core State Standards into the teaching curriculum have been uneven across the state,” Governor Malloy said.  “Teachers, students, public officials, and everyone involved in the education system will benefit by having this review, identifying challenges, and highlighting best practices and lessons learned.”
Last July, Governor Malloy sought federal approval to provide Connecticut school districts with new flexibility on statewide standardized tests that would offer districts the option to administer the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment rather than Connecticut’s legacy assessments – the CMT and CAPT – this school year, and also offer districts the option not to use state test data in educator evaluations for the current school year.
In January, Governor Malloy, joined by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Senate President Donald E. Williams, Jr., and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, wrote to the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, urging the panel to enable the exclusion of state standardized test indicators in next year’s teacher evaluations; enable school districts to have flexibility in the implementation of evaluation in the current school year and future school years; and streamline the data management requirements at the classroom level.
Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order No. 41, the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce is being asked to consider ways to advance the translation of Common Core State Standards into curricula; consider ways to strengthen the professional development opportunities available to classroom teachers and school leaders; and identify and highlight best practices and lessons learned by teachers, schools and school districts across the state and nation.
Final recommendations are due no later than June 30, 2014, in time for the 2014-15 school year.
In formulating the membership of the taskforce, the Governor received recommendations from the American Federation of Teachers; CT Education Association; CT Association of School Administrators; CT Association of Schools; CT Association of Public School Superintendents; CT Association of Boards of Education; CT Teachers of the Year Association; the CT Parent Teacher Student Association; legislators; and self-nominations from interested educators.
Membership of the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce
  • Twelve practicing teachers or education professionals who teach in elementary, middle or high school:
    • Erin Wilson, Elementary School Teacher, Hartford, Teacher of the Year Finalist [Co-Chair]
    • Juanita Harris, Special Education Teacher, Danbury
    • Andrea Middlebrooks, Life Sciences Middle School Teacher, Cromwell
    • Ken Daly, English and Language Arts High School Teacher, Wallingford
    • Bruce Yarnell, Special Education Middle School Teacher, Stonington
    • William McKinney, High School Teacher, New Haven
    • Patti Fusco, Elementary School Teacher, West Haven
    • Susan Schmidt, Elementary School Teacher, New Britain
    • Diana Burns, Elementary School Teacher, Westbrook
    • Sue Loud, Department Head for English & Social Studies, Eli Whitney Technical High School, Hamden
    • Barbara Johnson, Librarian/Elementary School, Colchester
    • Waiting for confirmation from member
  • Four principals from either an elementary, middle or high school:
    • Dr. Anne Jellison, Principal, Meriden
    • Anthony Ditrio, Principal, Norwalk
    • Vicki Reed, K-2 Principal, Wallingford
    • Edith Johnson, High School Principal, New Haven
  • Four superintendents or district curriculum leaders:
    • Nate Quesnel, Superintendent, East Hartford [Co-Chair]
    • Paula Talty, Superintendent, Cromwell
    • Sean McKenna, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Groton
    • Ivelise Velazquez, Director of Reading & Social Sciences, Windham
  • Two parents:
    • Candy Yeager, Stamford parent
    • Waiting for confirmation from member
  • Two members of local boards of education:
    • Don Harris, Chairman, Bloomfield Board of Education
    • Liz Brown, Waterbury Board of Education
  • The Chief Academic Officer of the State Department of Education:
    • Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Chief Academic Officer, State Department of Education
Meet Local Legislators at the Bristol Labor Council Breakfast — March 3, 2014