Flexibility added to Teacher Evaluation roll out

HARTFORD — The state Board of Education has unanimously agreed to give districts flexibility in carrying out a new teacher evaluation system that judges them in part on how well their students perform on standardized test.

The approval came Wednesday with the caveat that the board still expects the new system to be fully implemented as planned in the 2014-15 school yer.

After the vote, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor characterized the upcoming school year a bridge year. He said the change means districts won’t have to go at it full throttle in the upcoming school year, when some are still not ready.

“It is meant to decrease anxiety and increase confidence in the new system,” he said.

Under the plan all districts participate, but possibly with just a subset of schools.

Districts will have the option to:

* use the new system fully on one third of their schools in the first year

* use the new system fully on only classroom teachers and administrators in half of their schools

* some other locally-determined option which must be proposed to the state by April 15.

The new system rates teachers based on a formula with 45 percent of their evaluation based on how much academic growth their students have that year. Classroom observations count for 40 percent, school-wide achievement five percent and parent and peer feedback, 10 percent.

This year, 10 districts, including Bridgeport and Norwalk are piloting the new system. The plan was to require all districts to comply fully by next year.

“There have been a lot of bumps in the road no doubt about it,” said Sarah Barzee, interim Chief Talent Officer for the department.

A study of the pilot by the University of Connecticut’s NEAG School of Education, has found teacher training to be lacking thus far. Many don’t know what is expected of them.

A recent Connecticut Education Association survey found that only 61 percent of teachers were familiar with the framework being used to evaluate them under the new model even after an orientation.

The unions are all for the extra time. CEA President Shelia Cohen said she appreciates that teacher concerns have been heard.

“We think there’s a real opportunity for districts that have already submitted a draft plan to the SDE to continue revising it with the direct involvement of teachers,” Cohen said.

Linda Lambeck