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Education Commissioner Authorizes Flexibility to Start School Year

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor spoke to

Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor spoke to superintendents gathered for the annual back-to-school meeting this morning.

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

You can watch video of the entire back-to-school meeting here.

Watch Pryor’s comments on the federal waiver below.

  1. Marie and Kristen –
    We finally have an answer as to why the field test results will be so late. Because it’s a field test, the entire test has to be calibrated to a national norm — which means taking the time to look at the way kids across the country at every grade level answered questions to determine what range can be expected and if the questions are at an appropriate level. In future years, the SBAC results should be available much more quickly, which is perhaps what your superintendent was referring to, Kristen.

    September 13, 2013
  2. Kim Patella #

    Yesterday, my students took a computerized summative assessment, so I can use the data to write my SLO’s for my evaluation ‘donut’. As I was observing students, they were not engaged for 60 minutes; they were playing with the mouse, swirling their chairs, and having small talk with peers mid-way through the assessment. The attention span is lacking for this length of time. The students with ADHD were heart-breaking to watch. One asked me if they can go for a quick walk because their brain hurt and their eyes were burning.
    They are accustomed to quick mini-lessons, group work, and collaborative conversations. The computer assessment deems the opposite! I am concerned with this whole process because I am held accountable for the students’ progress on the SBAC when I clearly observe students not able to stay focused for that length of time and randomly selecting answers due to computer-screen fatigue.

    September 4, 2013
    • linda #

      You already have the CMT data and now we have MAP, too. What happened to getting to to know the children as humans, individuals with strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams? We spend so much time testing. What happened to a teacher’s professionalism and judgment? What if our assessments don’t match the NWEA MAP results? Kids are done in 10-15 minutes clicking any bubble just to be done. This is legally sanctioned child abuse. Please check out The Mismeasure of Education by Jim Horn:

      September 4, 2013
  3. Marie #

    How does a district evaluate a teacher for the 2013/14 school year using test scores for 22.5%, if they choose to, IF the results are not available until the fall of the 2014/15 school year?

    So a teacher will get their evaluation for this upcoming school year in the winter of the next school year?

    Why would it take so much longer to get the results? Did anyone ask?

    August 14, 2013
    • If part of a teacher’s evaluation is based on standardized test scores, and the test data isn’t available by the end of the school year, the teacher’s rating is based only on the non-standardized indicators used for any SLO. When the test scores are received by the district, the administrator may, but is not required to, review the SLO and indicators again and determine if the test score results would change the teacher’s rating. However, that must happen by September 15. If the test scores aren’t received by September 15, that process can’t take place. This is how the teacher evaluation guidelines have determined the process may unfold. Unless and until the State Board of Education approves changes to the guidelines, the September 15 date is final.

      We are trying to find out why the results for the field test will be arriving so late.

      August 20, 2013
      • Kristen Record #

        Any news yet about why that expected date is so late? My principal is now saying the exact opposite – that we are going to get SBAC results even sooner than CAPT scores.

        August 26, 2013
      • linda #

        Test scores shouldn’t be used at all. It is junk science and the unions have thrown us under the bus….start saving for a lawyer.

        September 3, 2013

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