State Decision Makers Act on Teachers’ Concerns
The state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) has been consumed in recent years by reports from consultants, disagreements about what’s best for students and teachers, and plenty of eduspeak—all in pursuit of a new teacher evaluation system.
But it only took commonsense comments from thousands of teachers for PEAC to reach consensus about new flexibility in the implementation of the new evaluation and support system, and to relieve the significant demands and pressures on teachers and administrators who simultaneously must also implement the Common Core State Standards.
The consensus vote came in the wake of a letter to PEAC members from Dannel P. Malloy, Governor; Nancy Wyman, Lieutenant Governor; Donald E. Williams, Jr., Senate President Pro Tempore; and J. Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House. In the letter the four urged PEAC to adopt new flexibility options, and they agreed that “it is more important that we get it (school reform) right than to do it fast and all at once.”
The four top policymakers wrote, “We’ve heard teachers’ concerns loud and clear, and understand. Too much change all at once impedes teachers’ ability to be effective in their classrooms. Teachers and administrators understandably are feeling burdened and together we must take action to relieve this pressure.”
At its meeting today in Hartford, PEAC amended the Connecticut Guidelines for Educator Evaluation to provide educators greater flexibility. The new flexibility options center on four areas: overreliance on testing, the number of required formal observations, development of Student Learning Objectives, and onerous data collection.
CEA President Sheila Cohen, a member of PEAC, said, “These new flexibility options are the result of teachers’ outspokenness at CEA legislative meetings in January as well as ongoing, effective communications to CEA about what was happening in their schools.”
Cohen explained that she, along with CEA Vice President Jeff Leake and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, have been persistent in taking teachers’ concerns to decision makers. “On behalf of CEA members, our frank and urgent discussions and meetings with Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, and outreach to local and state elected officials were successful in raising our collective ‘teacher voice’ to demand and get change that is in the best interests of students, teachers, and public education.”
Governor Malloy told PEAC members and reporters, “I have been in ongoing dialogue with representatives of teachers and others. Our kids won’t succeed unless our teachers have the support they need.”
Cohen told reporters, “PEAC changes will foster a new climate that moves away from rigidity and moves toward the healthy flexibility that our school communities sorely need—and need as soon as possible. While this is a significant improvement, it is only a first step in modifying existing guidelines and removing obstacles that hinder teaching and learning. PEAC’s action has Connecticut making the right turn at a critical crossroads. This right decision did not occur through serendipity, accident, or coincidence. It happened because Connecticut teachers care deeply about their students, and they spoke out intelligently and persuasively about the obstacles that state requirements had placed between teachers and students.”
The PEAC consensus vote must be adopted by the State Board of Education. State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the new flexibility is not an “imposition on school districts.” However, according to CEA leaders, school districts now have flexibility to make important changes, and it’s hard to imagine districts not wanting to do what’s best for their students and teachers.
CEA urges local district Professional Development and Evaluation Committees to convene as soon as possible to discuss using the new flexibility options to revise their teacher evaluation plans. New resources to help committees are available at cea.org and more will be added in coming days. CEA staff are ready to assist the committees in any way they can.
Some of the important new flexibility options are as follows:
- Enable the exclusion of state standardized test indicators (CMT, CAPT, or SBAC) in next school year’s evaluation (pending federal approval). Last summer, PEAC waived the state standardized test indicators for the current school year.
- Enable school districts to have flexibility in the implementation of the evaluation system in the current school year and future school years – and alleviate unnecessary burdens on educators – by providing districts with the option of reducing the number of time-consuming formal observations.
- Clarify that the minimum number of goals/objectives required for each educator in his/her teaching assignment can be one.
- Streamline the data management requirements at the classroom level while ensuring the protection of data from unauthorized users and access to technical assistance to all school districts.
For more on the new flexibility options, see this chart.
Pryor indicated that he believes PEAC changes have the potential to become “best practices.” He said that multiple short-term observations can add a “new rhythm” and could be equal to or greater than those of the current system.
Watch comments from CEA President Sheila Cohen and CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg at today’s PEAC meeting.