“The legislative mandate that concerns teachers more than any other is teacher evaluation,” CEA Policy Director Linette Branham told the Education Mandate Relief Task Force today at a meeting at the Legislative Office Building. “Teachers do want to be evaluated regularly, but they want it to be done properly and in a meaningful way.”
Branham was one of several representatives of education groups who presented to the task force today, expressing similar concerns about teacher evaluation.
“We do not question that we need to and must put effective teachers in front of every classroom, but how we get there is the issue,” said Ridgefield Superintendent Deb Low. “The teacher evaluation system would be great if it were the only thing going on in a building. The number of meetings, requirements for documentation — it would be fine if it was just guidelines, but we all pull our hair out when it turns into requirements.”
Task force member Rep. Paul Davis, after listening to the presenters, said that what legislators came up with “appears not to be what we really wanted to have, and appears to be a major burden to everyone.”
Branham shared with the task force ideas directly from teachers to improve the process and increase flexibility. Click here to read the document.
“We need to streamline the evaluation system and give local districts more autonomy,” Low said. “We need guidelines rather than requirements. There’s a lot of good in the new teacher evaluation system, but a lot is overwrought — it’s gotten too big and threatens to collapse under the mandates.”
There are many concerns about the one-size-fits-all approach to observation as well, Branham said. The recently released Neag report on the pilot of the state’s evaluation system found that many principals reported that observing every teacher every year just confirmed what they already knew about that teacher’s proficiency. The administrators would have liked to have had the flexibility to put more time into new teachers and those who need extra support.
Low said that very few districts have the capacity to spend as much time as is required evaluating all teachers.
Task force member and Weston Superintendent Colleen Palmer agreed, “I’m unaware of any district that evaluated every teacher to the extent the law requires. This has pushed us to the point where we question if we can get everything done.”
Thomaston Superintendent Francine Coss said that the evaluation system is taking too much time away from teaching students. “That’s not the spirit in which I believe the plan was put into place. We really need to be working together with the people on the ground,” she said.
Branham said that unfortunately many districts are dealing strictly with teacher evaluation compliance issues, and that’s really detracting from the purpose of evaluation.
“You hit the nail on the head,” said task force member Senator Andrew Maynard. “Compliance is superseding concern for teachers’ performance because of state requirements.”
Coss told the task force, “I really press those that you’re reporting to to reach out to the experts on the ground level to find out how the mandates are affecting students.”