State panel: Teachers must be evaluated on multiple standardized tests

The state panel responsible for crafting the requirements on how districts evaluate their teachers has unanimously approved changes that restrict districts from using a single standardized test when grading their teachers.

The change – which still needs final approval from the State Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education — also means districts can now use more than just the standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards to measure a teacher’s performance.

The requirement is meant to ensure that districts are not using a single point-in-time measure of a student’s academic ability when grading teachers, but rather student growth.

“It’s not a one shot deal,” said Stephen McKeever, a science teacher at Middletown High School and vice president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. “Nobody should be judged on whther or not [their students] took a test one day well.”

How standardized tests are factored into a teacher’s evaluation is a highly debated topic, as the state requires that at least 22.5 percent of a public school teacher’s rating be based on standardized measures. In order to get a waiver to the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law, the state promised the U.S. Department of Education that standardized tests would be part of the equation when evaluating Connecticut teachers.

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the “centerpiece” of the new requirement approved by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC) Thursday is that districts use only tests that have pretests. That way, a district can determine how much a teacher’s students learn while in her classroom, and can be graded in part on that outcome.

This “emphasizes that the system is about progress,” he said.

The PEAC is a diverse panel made up of school superintendents, school board members, union leaders and State Department of Education officials. The state board has typically signed off on its recommendations.

This panel and state education officials earlier this year asked the U.S. Department of Education to suspend for next school year the requirement that Connecticut teachers be evaluated on standardized tests while the new tests aligned with Common Core are rolled out. The state is still waiting to hear back on that request.

Pryor said “nearly every district” has already opted not to use standardized tests next year when evaluating their teachers. The State Board of Education is expected to vote on the changes during their May 7 meeting.