Education heavyweights draw line in the sand on teacher ratings

A coalition of statewide organizations that represent businesses, superintendents, principals, school boards and charter schools are calling on state lawmakers and officials to move forward with evaluating teachers based on test scores and reject calls from teachers’ unions to do otherwise.

A classroom at DiLoreto Magnet Elementary School in New Britain

CTMirror file photo

A classroom at DiLoreto Magnet Elementary School in New Britain

“The coalition believes ongoing and effective evaluations are an essential tool to help both teachers and principals to identify their strengths, areas of growth and professional development. The coalition opposes efforts to prematurely revise the teacher and principal evaluation system,” the group wrote in a media advisory Friday.

The group includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Business and Industry Assocation, the PTA, the Coalition for Achievement Now, the Council for Education Reform, the Association of Public School Superintendents and the Urban League of Southern Connecticut.

This announcement comes as state legislators and the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy face considerable lobbying efforts from the state’s two teachers’ unions to replace the state-mandated teacher evaluation system, where at least one-quarter of a teacher’s rating is linked to student test scores. The remaining grade is tied to classroom observations (40 percent) anonymous parent or peer surveys (10 percent), carrying out teaching objectives or another standardized test (22.5 percent), and schoolwide test scores or student surveys (5 percent).

The General Assembly’s Education Committee will hear testimony Monday on a bill that would bar linking evaluations to test scores. The state panel that oversees teacher evaluation rules also is expected to meet next Wednesday.

Until now, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been the lone voice publicly defending keeping test scores as part of teacher evaluations.

The state’s teacher evaluation system was one of the centerpieces of Malloy’s 2012 education reforms. Last week the governor, a Democrat, said his administration would be staying the course with several of those reforms, which teachers’ unions detest.

“I think that if children are tested, then we should use that data in all appropriate ways,” Malloy said. Asked if it were appropriate to include test results in teacher evaluations, he responded, “That’s what everyone has agreed to.

However, recent changes in federal education law allow the state to rethink the way it evaluates teachers, no longer mandating that test scores be tied to evaluations. The Malloy administration will no doubt welcome the kumbaya moment announced Friday by sometimes-adversarial education groups, but the powerful teachers unions, unsurprisingly, will be maintaining their opposition.

“It is not a valid indicator of student success,” said Mark Waxenberg, the president of the Connecticut Education Association.

He said that the legislature should make this decision of whether to link test scores to teacher evaluations.

“We believe that the legislative branch has ceded too much authority to the executive agency on this. This is clearly not in the best interest of our students” said Waxenberg, dismissing the coalition’s call to resist changing the current teacher evaluation guidelines. “They’ve always backed the governor. This is coming from the governor’s office and he’s rejected my meeting requests.”

How we got here with teacher evaluations