Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took to the radio airwaves in New York Tuesday to celebrate the changes to the education system and teacher tenure he has won in the education bill making its way through the Connecticut legislature.

“We were stuck in the mud [on real reform]. That all ends,” the Democratic governor told WCBS, a New York City radio station, this afternoon. “We are going to hold people accountable for driving achievement.”

A compromise education bill was approved by the Senate late last night and is likely to be approved by the state House later today. The bill has won the support of Democrats, Republicans  and the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Connecticut Education Association.

The bill requires a teacher to earn an “effective” evaluation to get tenure after four years. To lose that tenure, a teacher will have to be graded as “ineffective.” Malloy had originally proposed that teachers earn numerous “proficient” or “exemplary” evaluations to get and keep tenure. These new evaluations will count on student standardized tests for almost one-quarter of a teacher’s grade. There is no link between certification, pay and the evaluations in the new bill, things Malloy sought in his original bill.

But that exclusion didn’t dampen the governor’s good mood Tuesday.

“Part of this program is to put into place an evaluation system, an evaluation system that isn’t stopped by tenure. So everyone needs to be held to a high standard of performance,” he said.

He then addressed the vehement union opposition to his initial bill. “It got a little dusty for a little while… This coming year we’ll have a pilot project. The following year we’ll implement the [statewide] program and the following year it will have real consequences… We don’t do away with tenure, but tenure doesn’t save your job if you’re not performing.”

Malloy spent the bulk of his State of the State address to the General Assembly in February talking about changes to teacher tenure, saying, “the only thing you have to do is show up,” a line that infuriated teachers.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, chairman of the Education Committee, said when introducing the bill in the House Tuesday that teachers do more than just show up to get tenure.

That “is not something I witnessed” he said, noting that this bill will for the first time require that every teacher — including tenured teachers — be evaluated every year and require that teachers earn tenure based on their performance evaluations that are based on student progress.

When announcing the “landmark” compromise yesterday, Malloy never used the word “tenure.” His comments to the radio station didn’t bring up those initial controversial remarks, but he remained adamant that he got the changes that were necessary.

“What is important is Connecticut is joining other states, finally, in reforming pre-K through 12 education,” the governor said.

But it wasn’t easy getting to this point, Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. said Tuesday. Asked how a compromise that would please both an ambitious governor and the teachers’ union was reached, the Brooklyn Democrat took a deep breath.

“Through long discussions,” he said, calling the final bill an “appropriate balance.”

On top of linking tenure to the evaluations, the bill also speeds up the dismissal process when a teacher routinely fails their evaluations. It also requires they be evaluated.

“Some systems do not provide an evaluation,” he said. This bill will require every district have an evaluation system that mirrors the state-develped framework by the 2013-14 school year.

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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