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Teachers and Principals Struggle, But Say They’ll Stay Involved As Pilot Evaluation System Rolls Out

by Christine Stuart | Jan 2, 2014 5:34pm
(20) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education

CTNJ file photo

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor

Teachers were concerned about the “lack of training” regarding goal setting for student learning objectives, while school principals raised objections about the number of observations the new teacher evaluation system requires.

Those are just two observations made by researchers from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. They studied the implementation of Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation system during its pilot year in 10 school districts.

State Education Commission Stefan Pryor is not concerned.

“As is true with implementation of any complex new system, the early stages can be characterized by a good amount of anxiety and that is true in this case,” Pryor said Thursday after the study was released.

He said he welcomes the recommendations regarding implementation of the new system, and he recognizes that the model being used to evaluate teachers and administrators may need to be revised. He wants to make sure that’s done in collaboration with education stakeholders.

The study that was conducted between September 2012 and October 2013 found that more than half or 58 percent of teachers and 59 percent of school administrators surveyed felt that their rating was accurate under the new evaluation system. Also, 57 percent of teachers felt their post-observation conferences were “valuable.”

A whopping 94 percent of administrators reported that observing teachers under the system was somewhat or very valuable to them and 68 percent of teachers found analyzing student data valuable.

But finishing the three formal and three informal classroom observations of teachers was difficult, school principals told researchers.

The Neag study found that most districts were able to complete two formal and two informal observations. An estimated 69 percent of teachers surveyed reported having two or more informal observations, which last about 10-minutes, and 64 percent reported two or more formal observations, which last about a half hour and include post-observation discussion by the teacher and evaluator.

About 50 percent of teachers reported they had been observed more than in previous years, and 74 percent of teachers reported spending more time on goal setting than under previous evaluation systems.

“Almost half of the teachers surveyed (44 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that feedback from the observations prompted them to change their practice while 25 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed,” according to the Neag study. “This may be related to the fact that a relatively large percentage (55 percent) reported that feedback from observations were useful to them as professionals, while 23 percent disagreed that this was the case.”

Neag researchers interviewed hundreds of teachers and principals in compiling the study released Thursday. In those interviews they found that “almost all principals reported struggling to complete the required number of observations.”

“Principals in many pilot sites stated that they devoted substantial time on a near-daily basis attending to observations and corresponding pre- and post-observation conferences, and documenting the process,” the study found. Three districts reduced the number of observations as a result.

Several elementary principals said that in order to complete the evaluations they were working seven days a week, “whereas in previous years they could complete their work in 5-6 days per week.”

Litchfield Schools Superintendent Deborah Wheeler said she felt that there was a “depth” to the conversations that were happening between teachers and principals under the new evaluation system that wasn’t happening previously.

Wheeler, whose district participated in the pilot, said the evaluation became “much more personalized” and they spent more time on “goal setting” than initially allotted because they felt the payback on that was “tremendous.” It allowed teachers and evaluators to reflect deeply on their practices in the classroom.

Representatives of the state’s two teacher unions agreed that flexibility and cooperation were going to be important in the future as the system is implemented statewide this year.

Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said the state and the school districts will have to “look at this with flexibility.”

He said researchers found some areas that need to be addressed and other ones that will simply take some time.

Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut, the state’s second largest teachers union, agreed that flexibility remains a key part of how the state moves forward.

“Going forward, we intend to remain fully engaged in the process of effectively implementing a better and more effective evaluation system,” Peters said. “Applying the hard work, reflection, care, persistence and intellect of great teachers to this task is the way to ensure it’s done right.”

But there are bound to be some hiccups as the new system is implemented.

This year as the new evaluation system is employed, the state will transition to the Common Core Standards.

“We need to make sure that these reforms are mutually reinforcing and that they form a coherent whole,” Pryor said of the convergence of new evaluations with new standards.

He said the rubric for how classroom observation should be done will be different than the one used in the pilot. He said the rubric will be the “Common Core of Teaching” and will give observers the elements to look for in conducting an observation and the elements to dialogue about after the observation is completed.

The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers developed the Common Core out of a concern that the United States was falling behind the rest of the world. The standards are expected to teach children to be critical thinkers and to resolve problems in ways that go beyond memorization.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Waxenberg said of the implementation of the Common Core and the new teacher evaluation system.

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(20) Comments

posted by: OutBackJack312 | January 2, 2014  6:35pm

I still love how I receive no answer from these idiots or my state reps. when I ask how any of this is fair that I’m being evaluated based on student’s who can’t read the test because their fluent language isn’t English and they have only been in the country 6 months…  Only in America are teachers treated this badly while we treat celebrities like idols.

posted by: Eleanor | January 2, 2014  7:29pm

This is the biggest joke played on our profession yet. Common Core????  They want robots not people in the classroom. They want us to lose our personality and become the same.  There will no longer be teachers who are memorable only robotic figures .

posted by: Linda12 | January 2, 2014  7:29pm

It’s time to evaluate Pryor, two formal, two walk throughs: he must tell the truth. This system is convoluted and all about proving not improving. How would a man who never taught know anything about teaching or learning?  Sign up Malloy and Pryor for undercover boss.

posted by: Linda12 | January 2, 2014  7:49pm

Christine,

Can you get clarification on the term “education stakeholders”?  It’s bandied about as the new reformy rhetoric.  I need a definition.  Maybe next time Stefan can elaborate.

posted by: Castles Burning | January 2, 2014  9:46pm

Despite what Commissioner Pryor said about anxiety regarding the implementation of any system, it must be noted that this is not “any” system but a “universal” (variations abound) one that Connecticut created in response to national mandates.  The key sentence in this article is the opening one: “Teachers were concerned about the ‘lack of training’ regarding goal setting for student learning objectives.”  What can the Commissioner tell us about the degree of training that was provided for each district?  How much money was allocated for this aspect of the implementation?  What training did the trainers receive?  Who were the trainers? What data can he provide the public that teachers are indeed well prepared?

posted by: Christine Stuart | January 3, 2014  12:05am

Christine Stuart

Castles Burning,
I’ve been asking those questions and I’m beginning to turn blue in the face. Partially because some of it is a district driven decision, but as much as I was able to figure the state Education Department plans on spending about $13 million out of about $14.6 million over the next two years on professional development related to transitioning to the Common Core. As far as teacher evaluations go we did not receive an answer. Three reporters, perhaps more, asked for the information.

Linda12,

I used to cover education back in 2000-2003 and have been shocked at how much it has changed. It has a whole new language and the jargon has gotten to the point where no one can understand what they’re saying.

Talking about education is like dancing about architecture. Can’t be done.
Christine

posted by: JamesBronsdon | January 3, 2014  12:22am

Our experience with Common Core and our 6 year old in West Hartford is negative. Homework for first graders is counter-productive. The problems posed are often incomprehensible and poorly written. Teachers are not given enough credit to address the unique needs of each student. The ideologues behind this pretend that this is not a federal initiative, and yet somehow federal funds are inextricably bound up in all of this. When the “experts” are behind something, be very suspicious.

posted by: Castles Burning | January 3, 2014  12:46am

Christine,

I am so sorry that you are about to turn blue, but that shows that you care and would like to get some answers to issues of real concern.  Information should be available for a budgeted item.  Could there have been no budget? It is interesting that a figure can be given for common core.

I loved your comment to Linda12.  Perhaps they do not know what they are saying as all of the so-called “reform” is not really about education nor is it being led by those with expertise in education.  The key word is privatization.  Our governor is committed to spending money to make that happen.

posted by: schoolmom | January 3, 2014  8:10am

Ms. Stuart, if the Commissioner of Education and/or his agents refuse to provide answers on an expensive program that affects the jobs of teachers around the state, isn’t that worthy of being put in the body of the article, not a comment?  And I suggest you ask them to define jargon like “stakeholders”- just because they use it, that doesn’t mean papers have to parrot their meaningless drivel.

posted by: Linda12 | January 3, 2014  8:58am

Christine,

Thank you for your response. The people “leading” us were never master teachers themselves or teachers at all. This is called baffle them with bull____ so you won’t know what to ask.  They are destroying our profession.  They are truly making it up as they go along,

By the way stakeholders are shareholders: hedgeucators, malanthropists, corporate “donors”...anyone BUT teachers, students and parents.

posted by: Linda12 | January 3, 2014  9:21am

Christine and castles burning,

I emailed and called the SDE back in September for SLO help. Basically I got the run around. Emails forwarded to chiefs of this and chiefs of that.  They said they would have sample SLOS from the pilot soon for classroom teachers or subject area teachers. I followed up with many more emails and no one would respond. I saved all requests and names.

Basically, they blew me off.

The goal is to destroy the profession, get rid of the experienced teachers with higher salaries. Bring in test prep newbies, create churn, reduce the labor costs (salaries, pensions, family health care) and funnel the money to eduschemes.

The less experience one has with teaching, learning and child development the more one with advance in the CT education management charade. When it fails and it will, they will be back to bashing the teachers they want to destroy,

posted by: dano860 | January 3, 2014  9:42am

Castles Burning,
When the ‘navigators’ are finished with Owebamacare they will jump over and train the teachers and staff.
How hard can it be? Follow their guidelines and get the students through the test…that’s it!
The serious side of this is the great expense of continually changing plans and programs. Do they have proven test case to point to? Has a beta test been conducted on their computer evaluation program? The great insurance roll-out doesn’t instill confidence with government computing skills. They are just fooling themselves at the expense of the state, teachers, students and taxpayers.
I feel sorry for the angst and grief that teachers and parents will be subjected too because of this up requested action.

posted by: ConcernedVoter | January 3, 2014  10:17am

One thing to remember here is that the NEAG school and their “reports” are nothing more than an advertising branch for Pryor and his terrible reforms.  This is the same group that validated Paul Vallas’ “program of studies”.  They are shills, nothing more, nothing less.

posted by: Linda12 | January 3, 2014  11:31am

Obamacore, being promoted by Malloy/Pryor: you can keep your schools and teachers if you like them. Oops, not really but we’ll talk the talk just to keep you under control.

posted by: Bluecoat | January 3, 2014  2:04pm

Can someone ask the AFT and CEA how much money they have invested in investigating the claims of Common Core?, Have they spent time field testing this program, or just pushing CC with all the Gates Money these two Unions have received?

posted by: Bluecoat | January 3, 2014  3:00pm

The Debate in regards to CC, the RTTP, & the Smarter Balanced Assesments(which are authorized to pull private data from your kids), is not about the content, which standards are better, but on who gets to decide. For liberals, they always get to decide, and Pooh Pooh anyone who challenges their intellect, as tin-foil hat wearers

posted by: dano860 | January 3, 2014  3:45pm

Strike “up requested” for “unrequested” in the last reply.

posted by: monocle | January 3, 2014  4:27pm

When did ctnewsjunkie become a cheerleader for Stefan Pryor?

posted by: Bluecoat | January 3, 2014  4:58pm

Can someone ask Mr. Conflict of Interest(Pryor) his definition of - Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals?
Basically can the 169 Cities and Towns in CT keep their teachers, period!

posted by: Bluecoat | January 3, 2014  5:02pm

Question: Will DOE Administrators, Union Reps, and other unelected officials, submit their personal and private data, including, health records, cell phone info, voting status, sexual preference onto a database accessible to the Taxpayers of CT for reviwew? I mean if we are allowing the Smarter Balanced Assessments to perform this task on our kids without written notifiation or written permission, wouldn’t it be fair for these know-it-alls to submit to the same invasion of privacy?