NEWINGTON - As school districts set up their budgets to include funds for, amongst other things, Common Core State Standards mandates, Governor Dannel Malloy has called for a slowdown in implementing the evaluation components of the curriculum.
The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council has agreed, and what that means for school districts is that they will have more flexibility when it comes to how to structure the teacher evaluations.
More specifically, districts will be allowed, with federal approval, to factor out standardized test scores from the CMT, CAPT and new SBAC in putting together teacher evaluations for next year. The rollback will also permit a decrease in the number of evaluations given, according to a letter from Malloy to the Performance Advisory Council that was featured on ConnecticutNewsJunkie.com.
In Newington, there was shock, but no disruption to a budget process that just adopted and transmitted a proposal to the Town Council for review.
“We have worked hard to ensure we do everything by the book,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Collins during last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. “What came out this morning was a bit of a surprise. We had not heard of anything from the state’s department of education.”
The most costly components of the proposed budget are curriculum-based, so rolling back on the evaluation protocols is not expected to affect the process, according to board members.
“We’re hoping it will relieve the stress on teachers, but I don’t see the governor’s decision impacting our budget,” said board member Nancy Petronio during the meeting.
Delays in the implementation of other aspects of the Common Core-if they happen-could create opportunities for the district to save money in other areas such as technology, said Deputy Mayor Clarke Castelle after the meeting. He has his eye on costs for new technology driven by the computer-oriented Smarter Balanced Assessment.
“For that to happen, they would have to essentially repeal and reverse everything,” Collins said. “We have switched over to the math Common Core, and we are in the middle of switching to literacy, so we would have to get rid of the new curriculum and go back to the old way, which I seriously doubt would happen.
Collins says the district will maintain its course on implementing its teacher evaluation system because the law has not technically changed-yet-but that plans to hold off on using test scores as heavily weighted factors in the process is the right move.
“If there’s any way to have test scores as a part of the evaluation, that would be a Godsend,” Collins said.
The Common Core originally called for test scores to make up 45 percent of what teachers were evaluated for, according to ConnecticutNewsJunkie.com.
Collins said that he understands why it can be overwhelming.
“You get the Common Core curriculum, you do the testing pilot, and then you can do that [evaluations],” Collins said after the meeting. “But to do it all at once, I understand why teachers are panicking.”
“There are going to be growing pains,” added Board of Education Chair Marc Finkelstein. “We know it’s not perfect.”
That’s why providing teachers with support is important, Collins said. Part of the Board of Education’s proposed $69 million budget is the addition of an instructional coach for Newington High School.
In Wethersfield, they knew that the evaluation system would need some revising before Malloy even sent his letter to the Advisory Council--the Board of Education has already requested to be allowed to reduce the number of formal and informal observations it ran, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett.
“There weren’t enough administrators in our district to be able to adhere to that,” Emmett said. “Our teachers and administrators submitted concerns about being able to get through all of the observations and still be able to teach.”