State to seek flexibility for rollout of teacher evaluations, Common Core

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with his education commissioner, Stefan Pryor

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / The Connecticut Mirror

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with his education commissioner, Stefan Pryor

State officials are seeking flexibility in implementing the U.S. Department of Education’s accountability measures to avoid students being double-tested during the roll-out of the national Common Core State Standards.

In announcing the move Wednesday, state officials said they will also seek flexibility on implementing new teacher evaluations that link student test scores to teacher ratings.

The flexibility that the State Department of Education will seek includes giving districts a one-year pass on using test scores when evaluating teachers for the coming school year. The state department also will request approval to allow districts to choose which standardized test its students will take next school year. If granted approval, districts will be able to choose between a new test that evaluates student comprehension of Common Core or the old standardized test that students have taken for years.

“This is a choice,” Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday to the state panel of educators who created the new evaluation system. “I believe these are common-sense measures.”

Members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council — which includes leaders from the associations representing school boards and principals and the teachers’ unions — unanimously approved the state making this flexibility request. The State Board of Education is expected to sign off on the flexibility request on Monday.

“It’s absolutely essential for our districts to be fair,” said Shelia Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.

The Common Core State Standards are a national ininitiative that most states have adopted in an effort to have students focus more on historical and non-fiction reading materials versus stuents writing and reading about fictional topics. The standards also focus on critical thinking versus memorization. The tests associated with Common Core is set to be fully rolled out by the 2014-15 school year.

Malloy has warned that with the implementation of  the new Common Core test, student test scores are expected to drop. The test students take now was developed using state standards. The new test uses standards that states across the country will also be using.

“All of a sudden the people who think their kids are getting it are going to understand that on an objective basis… they are going to get very real and different results. Now they may not accept those results. Some folks won’t,” Malloy told a roomful of superintendents at their annual meeting last school year.

If granted flexibility, this dip will not impact a teacher’s evaluation.

This new evaluation system was as the center of the governor’s education reform initiative that became law after a contentious debate last year. Those new requirements ensure the state’s 50,000 teachers will be graded every year based on the results of their students’ standardized tests, announced and unannounced classroom observations, and possibly surveys and other measures. The results from these evaluations will help districts make tenure and dismissal decisions.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month wrote state officials to inform them that he is supportive of giving states flexibility to ensure a smooth rollout of these reforms.

“The Department is open to additional flexibility for states… Given the move to college- and career-ready standards, the dramatic changes in curricula that teachers and principals are now starting to teach, and the transition to new assessments aligned to those standards, the Department will consider, on a state-by-state basis, allowing states up to one additional year before using their new evaluation systems to inform personnel determinations,” Duncan wrote.

Malloy said he hopes to get an answer from the secretary on this request by September.

If approved, this will be the second time that the state has made changes to the rollout of its new teacher evaluations.

State lawmakers last month passed a law that gives districts the ability to phase-in the evaluations over the next two years so that every teacher and administrator will not be required to be evaluated at once.

“We’ll get there. And we’ll get there at a pace that makes sense,” said Mark Waxenburg, the executive director of the Connecticut Education Association.

 

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