Making teacher evaluations work

Some people think that teacher tenure is a guarantee of a job for life. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. The American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut has worked closely with the chairs of the General Assembly’s Education Committee to draft legislation (Senate Bill 1160) that will redesign teacher evaluation systems and align them to due process for tenured teachers.

Teacher evaluation is meant to be a tool that accurately assesses teacher performance and informs practice, but in too many school districts, it has become a sporadic, pro-forma process that does not reliably help identify teachers’ weakness, nor provide them opportunities to improve.

SB 1160 will put in place a collaborative, comprehensive teacher evaluation framework and align it to our due process system. Our union was instrumental in shaping this legislation because we want to make sure teachers have constructive feedback about their performance so that they can ensure students are receiving the best education possible.

Proposals in many other states have focused solely on test-scores and have failed to produce a comprehensive, fair, and expedient process that will identify, improve, and-if necessary-remove ineffective teachers.

The legislation will charge the State Department of Education’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council with developing a model teacher performance evaluation system for use by local and regional boards of education and regional educational service centers.

This model calls for measures based on the groundbreaking agreement negotiated between New Haven teachers and their superintendent.

The evaluation system will provide a process to ensure that teachers are being assessed fairly. Any teacher found to be in need of improvement will participate in a remediation plan of professional development, mentoring and other supports. If they have not made sufficient improvement, they may be dismissed. The dismissal process will be streamlined to not exceed 100 days.

Great teachers are made, not born, and require time and experience to reach their greatest potential as professionals. Studies indicate that the most effective teachers are those with at least five years of experience in the classroom.  That is why our state has invested heavily in a quality induction program for new teachers that provides them skilled mentors and professional development that helps them get started.  Now we need to make sure that all teachers, novices and veterans, have ongoing opportunities for constructive feedback.  SB 1160 would do that.