Union steps up lobbying despite movement on teacher evaluation

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Despite indications the state will delay linking student test scores to teacher evaluations for another year and will scale back how heavily those scores must be weighed, the state’s largest teachers’ union is stepping up its lobbying efforts.

“We are taking our efforts to a new level with our advertising campaign,” Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, said Thursday as she released a new advertisement that will run on TV and online.

“We are airing new TV and digital ads that raise awareness — from parents to policymakers — about the need to reduce testing and test prep and restore more time for learning in our classrooms to help every student achieve,” she said.

The legislature is currently considering a bill co-sponsored by 36 state senators and representatives that would prevent the State Board of Education from mandating that state test scores be used to evaluate teachers. That legislation was approved by the Education Committee 23-10 on March 18.

Student test scores are scheduled to count for a least one-quarter of teacher evaluations starting next school year, but an advisory  panel to the State Board of Education has recommended pushing back the coupling until the 2017-18 school year. The state board is expected to adopt those recommendations next week.

Additionally, the advisory panel – the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council – reached a consensus earlier this week that rigid state guidelines dictating how much weight must be given to each component of an evaluation should be refined to give local educators more flexibility. However, the panel has not yet formally recommended any changes for the state board to consider.

“The state board will take up the PEAC recommendation next Wednesday. And PEAC will explore the flexibility in weights for different components of the formula,” said Abbe Smith, a spokeswoman for the education department, in a statement.

In announcing the $150,000 advertising campaign that will run through the end of April, the teachers’ union called the state’s dedication to Smarter Balanced Assessment standardized test “ill-advised and misguided”.