After 11 frustrating years of evaluations that teachers have often felt are unfair and lacking in useful feedback, the State Board of Education this spring is expected to vote on new teacher evaluation guidelines that are more meaningful, personalized, and collaborative for educators. Governor Lamont, State Department of Education leaders, CEA, AFT Connecticut, and other education stakeholders gathered for a news conference to announce the new guidelines at Manchester High School this morning.
“We’re really trying get away from what is in statute, which is this idea of rank ordering,” said CEA President Kate Dias. “The new teacher evaluation system is really focused on personalizing the learning for educators themselves—looking at, where are you today, where do you need to be tomorrow, and how we going to get you there?”
Dias said that the new system, developed over 20 months of back-and-forth by a council made up of representatives of many education stakeholder groups, including CEA, is more intensive and more meaningful. “It’s going to require the administrator and the teacher to really sit and work together and to develop goals that make sense. But it’s also more effective because it’s really directed towards the needs of individual teachers. It allows us to evaluate a first-year teacher like a first-year teacher and a veteran of 25 years, like a veteran of 25 years.”
Dias continued, “When we appropriately respect, support, and care for the professionals in the system, they can focus on the good work of caring for children, and that’s what we need.”
After adoption by the State Board of Education, districts will have the 2023-2024 school year to plan for implementation of the new Connecticut Guidelines for Educator Evaluation beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
Currently, training is being developed for teachers and administrators who will be evaluated under the new guidelines, as well as for school and district leaders who will be evaluating teachers and administrators. Guidance is also being developed for district Professional Development and Evaluation Committees to ensure successful implementation of the new guidelines.
“Connecticut has an escalating learning crisis that is fueled by educators and support staff leaving the profession,” said AFT Connecticut Vice President Mary Yordan. “This makes the Lamont administration’s embrace of this evaluation model empowering for educators to address this crisis. The evaluation model represents a revolutionary change in how we promote growth. An environment of trust and an environment of respect makes a crucial difference.”
She continued, “Our members have long called for this kind of differentiated approach to achieving professional growth. The new model amplifies what research says works—and that is to inspire educators to think and discuss their professional practice in an individualized way with their evaluators so they can engage in meaningful, practical, and complex ways to grow.”
“I’m very thankful to the Department of Education and to the Governor’s Office for taking the plunge and having the courage to say, what we have in statute, what we have from 2012, isn’t working really well and we need to start over and move to imagine what could be,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. “The product that we’re bringing forward, I believe, will engender respect for all and better relationships.”
Dias said that, for the last decade, educators have looked at the state’s teacher evaluation program and asked, “Does this really support me or does it judge me?”
She added, “We want to support our educators, and I think this new program does that. It’s been a lot of work to get to the place where we’re at today but I think it does that.”
“We really tried to strip away everything that was just about accountability, and we need legislators’ help to eliminate the legal requirement that every teacher gets a rating,” Yordan said. “One, two, three, or four—we have a complex job, and it’s very insulting for that job to be reduced to a number. I can do all kinds of things well, and I do a few things not so well. Let’s have a conversation about that.”
Dias said that improved teacher evaluation is one step toward attracting and retaining Connecticut educators, but that the state must do more to combat a growing teacher shortage.
“We have to look at teacher starting salaries in the state of Connecticut. For a bachelor’s degree, it’s $48,000,” Dias said. We have to look at that, and we have to look at all the ways that we bring people in and support them and care for them.”
The teacher certification process can also be a barrier for educators looking to enter the profession. “We have to look at the price tag. Why is it $1,500 to get certified?” Dias asked. “We haven’t really looked at teacher certification since 1998.”
The Connecticut State Department of Education plans to convene a group of stakeholders to review and identify a framework to evaluate the effectiveness of the state’s certification regulations. Like the council that developed the new evaluation system, the Department hopes that the group will be pivotal to the modernization of certification regulations.
Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker said, “The Connecticut State Department of Education has made it one of our top priorities to have a high-quality and diverse educator workforce. We believe that the current collaborative efforts with our education partners will help us reach our goal. We are so grateful to our partner organizations that we are moving forward together in modernizing teacher certification and reimagining performance evaluation and supports in Connecticut.”
Governor Lamont said, “We owe it to our students to provide them with the best possible education, and that starts with ensuring that our teachers are well-trained and supported. These proposed reforms are an important step forward in our efforts to improve the quality of education in Connecticut.”