Process Should Not Be the Product: Evaluation System Cries Out for Improvement
CEA championed people over process at today’s meeting of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC). CEA President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg pressed education leaders to act quickly and decisively to make the current, two-year waiver from using mastery exam (SBAC, CMT, etc.) scores for evaluation permanent.
“We’re up against a time limit here,” said Waxenberg, referring to the fact that some of the issues that PEAC can address would require action by the legislature, which adjourns May 4. CEA believes that people—students, families, teachers, and administrators—are being hurt by the new evaluation system rolled out in 2013. CEA leaders say it does not translate into improved learning for students and is unnecessarily bureaucratic and a time drain for teachers and administrators.
Cohen stressed, “We do not want to see what is happening at PEAC not coincide with what is happening in the legislative session and go past the legislative adjournment. Then the time we would have had to make substantive change will be gone, and that is not satisfactory.”
PEAC includes representatives of a long list of groups, including CEA and AFT-Connecticut as well as organizations representing principals, superintendents, school boards, and higher education. PEAC serves in an advisory capacity to the state Board of Education.
Waxenberg told PEAC members, “Talk as much as you want. I want to know: When is there going to be a vote?”
State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell responded by saying—unlike CEA that has formulated a plan to address teacher evaluation problems—other representatives on PEAC and their respective organizations have not yet done that. “We haven’t even had any process yet,” she said. “I think all of the stakeholder groups have worked with all of their groups on all of the components, but may not have put together the same thing, so I think all of the stakeholders need to be able to have that discussion.”
At today’s meeting, PEAC members were asked to identify issues that need addressing in the new evaluation system and pinpoint positives that seem to be emerging.
Many of the issues articulated by PEAC members are ones that CEA has voiced concern about already and addressed in the proposed CEA teacher evaluation guidelines released at a news conference last week.
According to PEAC members, some of the issues that PEAC and state officials should look at include the requirement that statewide test data be included in evaluations, the strict formulaic approach of the system that limits judgment and takes an inordinate amount of time away from teaching and learning, specified teacher rating categories that interfere with improvement, and evaluator training that may not ensure calibration.
According to council members, a sampling of the positives generated by the new teacher evaluation system include administrators focusing more on teaching and learning, administrators visiting teachers’ classrooms more frequently, and Professional Development and Evaluation Committee (PDEC) members often having a say in the local district evaluation process.
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said he needed more data before making key decisions as a member of PEAC.
Waxenberg stressed, “What data do you need to determine whether the statewide mastery score should be mandated in teacher evaluations?”
Paula Cohen, EASTCONN Executive Director, said, “I am a little concerned that this has been such a long drawn out process.”
PEAC meets again on March 9. After members today expressed concern about a time crunch, state Department of Education staff members said they would schedule additional meetings through the winter and spring.