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CEA Urges Legislators to End Link Between Teacher Evaluation and SBAC Scores

CEA President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg testified before the legislature’s Education Committee today.

“Nowhere in research does it say that the results of a single standardized test score measure the effectiveness of a teacher,” CEA President Sheila Cohen told legislators this evening.

Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg expressed teachers’ support for SB 380 An Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance Results on the Mastery Examination from Teacher Evaluations to members of the legislature’s Education Committee at a public hearing. The CEA leaders presented a comprehensive report, including research from around the country, detailing why state legislators need to eliminate the link between teacher evaluations and SBAC that is scheduled to take effect in September.

“The primary purpose of teacher evaluation is to support teachers’ growth and development so that they in turn are better able to help their students succeed,” Cohen said. “Including SBAC scores in teachers’ evaluations in no way helps improve student learning. That is what the research clearly and indisputably shows. To ignore that is to ignore what is best for our public schools and the future of our state.”

Research shows that the best way to evaluate teachers is through observation by administrators and monitoring the growth and development of students in the classroom. CEA leaders said that teacher evaluation should reinforce the goal of respecting the potential of every student, recognizing a teacher’s desire for continuous improvement, and avoiding unintended consequences—such as discouraging the recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers in schools that serve high poverty communities.

Cohen and Waxenberg said that Senate Bill 380 addresses a critical failing of teacher evaluation since 2012—the planned linking of almost one-quarter of a teacher’s evaluation to state mastery examination scores (SBAC). This linkage was done without any scientific or research-based evidence that such a link was valid, reliable, or fair for the purpose of teacher evaluation.

Education Committee Co-Chairs Andrew Fleischmann and Gayle Slossberg.

Education Committee Co-Chairs Andrew Fleischmann and Gayle Slossberg.

It turns out there is no such evidence, the CEA leaders told legislators. No vendors of mastery examination tests claim their test is a valid measure of teacher performance.

“Clearly there is a place for standardized testing when it’s used as designed,” said Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice. “The makers of SBAC acknowledge that it’s not designed as a proxy of teacher or school quality.”

Jacob Werblow, an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University and Harber Fellow of Education at Wesleyan University, said “Differences in average standardized test score performance have little to do with teacher or school quality. This is something that national experts have been consistently saying for years. This is because nearly all of the variability in test score performance lies in the demographic differences among the students.”

Teachers have long been arguing this very same thing.

“Teachers realize that while their own impact on children is great, it is not as great as the influence of many other factors, including but not limited to poverty, language proficiency, home life, learning disabilities, level of parental involvement and education, and access to proper facilities and technologies,” said West Hartford teacher Ted Goerner.

Many legislators indicated they share teachers’ concerns about the fairness of using mastery test scores in a teacher’s evaluation.

Senator Gayle Slossberg said, “My concern is that we’re holding teachers responsible for a lot of things that are out of their control at a time when teachers really feel beaten down and feel we’re no longer partnering with them.”

“My son was on an IEP from age three to grade 12,” said Senator Dante Bartolomeo. “He’s now a sophomore in college with a 3.85 GPA, doing phenomenally, but his SAT scores were terrible—his standardized test scores throughout school were terrible. My child’s teachers did a tremendous job preparing him for college and beyond. If they had been judged and evaluated on his SBAC scores you would have said they were doing a terrible job.”

The requirement to use the test scores for teacher evaluation in Connecticut has been waived for the past two years. CEA is urging legislators to make that waiver permanent and prevent bad policy and unintended consequences that are harmful to teachers and students.

Visit cea.org to read the CEA report summarizing research about the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluations.

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