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OP-ED | News Flash: Teacher Evaluation Proposals Not Extreme At All

by Jennifer Alexander | Apr 30, 2012 11:20am
(14) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion

With less than two weeks left in Connecticut’s legislative session, we have yet to see any genuine effort (beyond the governor’s original proposal) to link evaluations to employment decisions. Instead, we hear time and again that this needs to be delayed for further study and that students can wait for reform.  Today’s revelations about bill negotiations and the proposals supported by legislative leaders prove again that they are unwilling to prioritize student learning by making such changes now. The next version of the bill may even gut the hard work conducted so far at the state level to approve a framework for teacher and principal evaluations.

The fact is that many states and large school systems — recognizing that great teachers literally transform kids’ lives — already have built teacher evaluation systems that use student performance data to provide meaningful feedback and to inform important personnel decisions.

The real story status quo defenders don’t want you to hear: 23 states have implemented an evaluation framework similar to the one developed by Connecticut’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council; 19 states use teacher evaluation results to inform dismissal decisions, and; 11 states link tenure to evaluation results.

Indeed, the proposals in the original Senate Bill 24 to link teacher evaluation results with staffing decisions are not untested, scary science experiments — not at all.

Connecticut doesn’t need to re-invent the wheel. ConnCAN, in partnership with 50CAN and Public Impact, is finalizing a study of 10 leading evaluation systems that guide the performance of more than 120,000 educators in 3,135 schools serving more than 1.7 million students. These 10 sites — five districts, three states, one charter management organization, and one graduate school of education — have implemented these changes without any of the hyperbolic consequences predicted by those in Connecticut who seek to water down reform. Teachers aren’t leaving these systems in droves, either by choice or because of arbitrary administrator decisions. In fact, many teachers are improving their craft through the meaningful feedback and training they have received as a result of these evaluations.

How do the reforms proposed in the original version of Senate Bill 24 compare to these systems? Every one of these systems weights student achievement at 40 to 55 percent of a teacher’s final evaluation rating, with some systems devoting the entire weight to student growth on statewide standardized tests. By contrast, only half of the 45 percent weight for student performance in Connecticut’s evaluation system would be based on results from the CMT or CAPT test for teachers in tested grades and subjects.

In all of these systems, evaluation results actually count for something, ranging from informing a teacher’s professional development to dismissal, pay, and tenure status. Seven sites connect evaluation results to pay or increased responsibility. Three connect results to certification. Eight sites connect results to dismissal or tenure status.

Those fighting to protect the status quo want you to believe that the original S.B. 24 proposed something truly radical, but the fact is that we are just now getting with the program. To be sure, this work involves complex decisions about design and implementation. It is difficult, but essential, work. It can be done, as demonstrated by the 10 systems in our forthcoming study and by other states and large school systems nationwide.

We owe it to our students to act as quickly as possible to bring those lessons to Connecticut. The time for study has passed. The clock is ticking and the time for action is now. We must not let fear or uncertainty stand in the way of doing what we know is right for students.

Jennifer Alexander is the vice president of research and partnerships at ConnCAN, a statewide education reform advocacy organization. The ConnCAN/50CAN/Public Impact study of 10 leading teacher evaluation systems will be released in June.

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(14) Comments

posted by: Gloriawea1 | April 30, 2012  12:11pm

“ConnCAN, in partnership with 50CAN and Public Impact, is finalizing a study of 10 leading evaluation systems that guide the performance of more than 120,000 educators in 3,135 schools serving more than 1.7 million students.”

Let me get this straight: You want us to depend on the results of a study that isn’t finished yet done by the group that is pushing for these reforms? I don’t think so.
Teachers are all for accountability. We are not against evaluation or even using test scores for our evaluations. Evaluations are already tied to tenure decisions. We are against the convoluted way that certification (a state responsibility) is tied to evaluation(a local responsibility) and tenure (a legal right) in the original SB24.
We can wait to get reform done right.

posted by: Martha H | April 30, 2012  12:22pm

Martha H

“We must not let fear or uncertainty stand in the way of doing what we know is right for students.”

Or, put another way, “We must not let panic ginned up by outsider corporation-sponsored non-educators intent on privatizing Connecticut’s public education systems and busting unions with remarkably unproven bandwagon “reforms” stand in the way of doing what we know is right for students.”

posted by: brutus2011 | April 30, 2012  12:22pm

brutus2011

Ms. Alexander’s op-ed is entirely reasonable on its face.

She argues that “Those fighting to protect the status quo want you to believe that the original SB 24 proposed something truly radical, but the fact is that we are just now getting with the program.”

And of course “those fighting to protect the status quo” are teachers and teacher’s unions to the detriment of our kids.

And of course Ms. Alexander and other education managers know better than teachers about how to educate our kids.

Look folks, this is about money, power and control.

There is a 630 BILLION dollar public education pie in America.

The privateers want in.

SB 24 is just the tip of the iceberg.

The bill in its original form as proposed by Gov. Malloy is a trojan horse that would have opened the floodgates to disaster for our kids.

What Ms. Alexander is that the real “status quo” is the education managers, both public and charter, scapegoating teachers and profiting off of lower-income children.

posted by: Linda12 | April 30, 2012  1:08pm

Ms. Alexander…as stated..
“We owe it to OUR students”.......

I have a 24 minute lunch, so this must be brief.

I read quickly, but please identify the grades and ages you have taught, for how many years have you taught, the subject and/or content areas you taught, and the towns/districts states/settings you have taught in and your areas of expertise/certification.

Thank you.

posted by: Noteworthy | April 30, 2012  1:12pm

Ms. Alexander sounds so, well, reasonable. It’s seductive with her whispering in our ears - “it’s for the children, it’s for the children…act quickly.”

I don’t buy it.

While Ms. Alexander is only focusing on teacher evals, in fact the proposed bill she, ConnCAN, AF and only God knows what other special interest wrote the bill contains much more. What’s being advocated here is not an exact mirror of something that’s working in another state - it reflects some of what may or may not be working.

There have been a great many decisions made in Hartford that supposedly are for the children that end up picking our pockets clean with little tangible results. More often than not, the actions taken were hurried, rushed and not vetted thoroughly. We do not need more of the same, especially when it’s being advocated by those who stand to gain the most. There is a dubious relationship between all the players she lists - we should all be worried.

posted by: CONconn | April 30, 2012  1:48pm

Hmmm… Jennifer Alexander. Where have we heard that name before? Oh wait! She’s the VP of ConnCAN!

Don’t take anything this woman says at face value. ConnCAN is a well-funded publicity machine for Achievement First. It is run by hedge fund managers with no experience in teaching whatsoever. This is just more propaganda, posted in a desperate attempt to change the laws so these private companies can swoop in and steal public education dollars.

posted by: ConcernedVoter | April 30, 2012  1:56pm

Even someone with such ulterior motives as Jen Alexander has to understand that you don’t tout the results of a study before the study is completed.  Do they already have “the results”?  Is this why she is so confident?  ConnCan has been exposed and these “ideas” ring of money only, with nothing to do with kids.

posted by: Martha H | April 30, 2012  2:16pm

Martha H

@Linda12,

If you are concerned about where the author of this piece is coming from, perhaps you should dig up the transcript of the two-member discussion panel she served on in September of last year, titled:

“Money Matters: Using the fiscal crisis to advocate for school reform.”

posted by: Linda12 | April 30, 2012  2:18pm

I wonder if they will offer a subway sandwich and a bus ride?

posted by: TerryW | April 30, 2012  4:04pm

Thank you Martha!

Teacher evaluations are the man concern or funding reform….$$$$$ going where exactly?

Advocating for funding reform in Connecticut
Jennifer Alexander explained what her group, ConnCAN, is doing to advocate for school finance reform in Connecticut. ConnCAN has put forward a comprehensive proposal for moving to a student-based budgeting system in Connecticut. She described their advocacy, policy, and communications efforts to date, and described a simulator they have constructed to study finance and student-based budgeting and model the impact of a system redesign over time. This system would consistently fund student need at any public school he or she attended and drive funds to the students who need them most. This proposal served as the model for last year’s Senate Bill 1195, which did not make it out of committee. ConnCAN is refining the model and using it to advocate for change again this year.
 

posted by: Adamec | April 30, 2012  4:59pm

If we’re going to go down this new route to Education Reform, that is, post No Child Left Behind and that stellar success at revamping education. We should probably look at how successful you are at pushing the new Education Reform and how effective you are at educating teachers to the so called benefits of the new approach. We need to tie your appeal for the new Education Reform to a measurable outcome. Are Connecticut teachers more supportive of your efforts now than they were when SB 24 was first introduced? No, it would appear not.

So far I would say your educational effectiveness is found wanting. There appears to be an achievement gap between what you espouse, what you say you’re trying to do, and what you’re actually doing.

And if this is the outcome of your efforts at getting buy-in, why should anyone believe you have the tools to implement actual Education Reform and close the achievement gap these reforms claim to address?

posted by: brutus2011 | April 30, 2012  5:12pm

brutus2011

I have been literally screaming for some kind of rational metric to ascertain exactly where our public education funds are ending up.

I know that money is being spent inefficiently and that a new management model for our public schools, especially urban, time is now.

We need to do more with less.

We need more at the classroom level and less at the upper level—but our classroom resources are cut while more administrators and consultants are being hired and retained.

There is far too much municipal, and organizational, politics in our public schools.

Yet the governor appoints a private sector lawyer and organizer to head the state department of education.

Wake up citizens.

These people are not going to stop their propaganda to raid the public till until we put our collective feet down.

posted by: saramerica | April 30, 2012  7:46pm

saramerica

You know it’s SO interesting. As we know, Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the DC Public Schools, and now head of Student’s First, - excuse me - GNEPSA, instituted a similar evaluation system in DC. And what do we now find out? That the statistical correlation between these “value added metrics” that were used to fire teachers and observations of classroom instruction were “modest” at best. Like 0.34. Can anyone blame teachers for not wanting their livelihoods and certification to be tied to this untested junk science? Would YOU want your livelihood determined that way? Talk about a great way to demotivate good teachers.

posted by: Tom Burns | April 30, 2012  9:50pm

Ms Alexander and Patrick Riccards have not made a difference in one single childs life—yet they espouse to know something about education—their job is to talk about education as if they know something so that they can receive a check for themselves—-they validate their jobs by talking foolishly and unintellectually about our education system—-Yeah—those states who adopted the invalid evaluation systems have taken the low road and accepted the corporate takeover of schools to the detriment of our kids——This is CT—we wont—ya see—cause we lead—we dont follow—-and no matter what your stats say—-CT is the Education state——although ConnCon would like to have you believe it would be Louisiana, Florida, Michigan, Indiana and so -forth———soon Jen and Patrick will be looking for real jobs as they fail in harming the students of CT—I just want them to teach for a month and try to really make a difference—-our jobs mean something—yours dont matter—Tom