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Norwalk Schools Get More Time For New Teacher Evaluations

Connecticut school districts now have an extra year before they will be required to use standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.
Connecticut school districts now have an extra year before they will be required to use standardized test scores in teacher evaluations. Photo Credit: File

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Connecticut’s Department of Education has agreed to give towns more time to adjust to its teacher evaluation system.

Public schools across the state are in their first year implementing new teacher evaluations, which were a required part of Connecticut’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind program. The evaluations are partially based on standardized test scores and were to include multiple in-class observations by an administrator for each teacher.

The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) agreed to allow districts to remove the standardized testing requirements for another year, through the 2014-15 school year. The council will also let towns reduce the number of evaluations and formal objectives needed for each teacher’s evaluation.

"In order to ensure that our students reach our new and higher state standards, we must ensure that our teachers and school leaders are given the time, flexibility and support they need to succeed,” state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a press release.

Teachers and administrators had spoken out about the new evaluations since the details were announced, arguing that they would be too time-consuming to implement. Teachers’ unions also asked to break the link between the evaluations and standardized tests, which are also changing over the next year.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, State Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and President Pro Tempore of the State Sen. Donald Williams co-signed a letter Tuesday asking the PEAC for the delay. The group wants to give teachers and administrators more time to focus on the state’s new curriculum, the Common Core State Standards, which are also being implemented this year.

“Since the beginning of the school year, we have heard from teachers and administrators voicing their concerns that too much change is hitting their classrooms at once,” the letter said. “This confluence of changes jeopardizes the success of our teachers, and thus our students.”

The letter also asked the PEAC to form a subcommittee of teachers and administrators to report issues with the new evaluation system. The subcommittee will report to the General Assembly in 2015.

"Connecticut is a small state but it is not a state of a uniform collection of schools and districts,” said Karissa Niehoff, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools. “In order to best meet the learning needs of all of our children, we need to allow education stakeholders the flexibility to develop the systems — and the policies and practices within those systems — that best meet the needs of the schools and children in their districts.”

A group of state legislators, including State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Norwalk, Westport and Wilton), also called for a review of the switch to the Common Core State Standards. Laveille and other representatives have argued that the program was adopted without approval from the state legislature.

“I have met with hundreds of teachers across the state, and they have told me the same thing over and over again: the heavy administrative load being imposed upon them by the Common Core implementation is compounding the problems they have with the new evaluation system, and together, these two issues are taking them away from their primary job in the classroom,” Lavielle said in a press release.

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