Education Commissioner Authorizes Flexibility to Start School Year
While there is no formal approval from the U.S. Department of Education allowing Connecticut school districts flexibility when it comes to deciding whether teachers will be evaluated based on how their students perform on state tests—Commissioner Stefan Pryor today said the State Department of Education (SDE) is authorizing that flexibility.
Pryor told Connecticut superintendents gathered for the annual back-to-school meeting that he is optimistic that Connecticut will ultimately receive federal approval.
“We need to move ahead as if we’ve been approved and set forth guidelines for flexibility,” said Pryor. “The school year is upon us. It’s time to proceed. So we are going to proceed as if approved.”
“We’re confident our waiver will be signed,” Governor Dannel Malloy told the group of educators. “We don’t want to be any more test-bound than we need to be. We hear, we listen, and understand how confusing this is for our teachers, and we want to work together.”
The Connecticut State Board of Education on July 15 authorized the SDE commissioner to seek a federal waiver to provide Connecticut school districts flexibility on two fronts: administering just one test to students during the next school year— the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment or the CMT and CAPT—and giving local school districts the power to decide whether or not to include that test data in teachers’ evaluations.
Both waiver provisions apply to the 2013-14 school year. State officials said that there is still a requirement that districts include student learning indicators in teacher evaluations.
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said teachers are prepared to take the steps to help students achieve and is pleased that the state is taking action to move forward.
“The start of the school year is only weeks away, and it’s critical that everyone—teachers, administrators, and families—is prepared for the changes ahead and trained in the nuances and expectations of new curriculum and assessment procedures,” said Waxenberg.
Pryor said participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment field test “is advantageous” –allowing districts to accelerate into the Common Core era.
Districts will need to submit an application to the SDE outlining their specific plans, which must include:
- Whether to utilize the Smarter Balanced field test, CAPT and CMT, or both. If districts can’t decide which assessment to use, the CAPT and CMT will be the default. Districts selecting and approved for the Smarter Balanced field test will still be responsible for administering the science sections of the CAPT and CMT.
- If they will use state test data in evaluations—and if so, how—or opt for another alternative to comprise the 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation that must include state standardized tests measuring student learning.
- How they are technologically prepared to administer the Smarter Balanced field test that is only available online. Also districts must be prepared to receive test results much later than usual, likely in the early fall.
Any approvals granted to districts by the SDE will be contingent upon federal authorization.
For more information and a teacher toolkit, visit http://www.connecticutseed.org/.
You can watch video of the entire back-to-school meeting here.
Watch Pryor’s comments on the federal waiver below.