“They call Windham County the quiet corner, but you wouldn’t know it by the turnout tonight,” CEA Secretary Pat Jordan told the more than 100 teachers crowded into a room at the Gold Eagle in Dayville last night. Jordan welcomed the educators and five members of the Connecticut General Assembly to the first in a series of CEA Regional Teacher Meetings, where educators shared their frustrations and suggestions for improvement when it comes to implementing the new teacher evaluation system and Common Core.
“This evaluation system was set up to try to get rid of bad teachers, but it ends up punishing everyone,” Karen Abbey, a teacher at Parish Hill High School in Region 11, said. She said that the current climate created by the evaluation system has many teachers so discouraged that they are looking at other career options.
Susan Rizer, a teacher at Sterling Community School, said that she used to enjoy mentoring new teachers but she no longer has the time for this valuable work. “I have two young boys of my own at home, and between my family responsibilities and everything I’m now required to do, I’m up until midnight,” she said.
Vicki Jacques, a teacher at Scotland Elementary School, said she remains dedicated to doing everything she can for her students, but the overwhelming paperwork required by the evaluation system is at risk of taking her away from planning lessons and teaching. “I can’t remember ever working so hard to accomplish so little,” she said.
Paul Hanusch teaches at an alternative high school program in Griswold and shared concerns about how teachers like him, who don’t teach traditional subjects, will be evaluated. His district has postponed evaluating the teachers in his program until next year. “From pre-K teachers to alternate education teachers, how will we be evaluated?” he asked.
State Rep. Mae Flexer thanked teachers for coming to the meeting. “I want you to understand the impact of your voice,” she said. “Through CEA you dramatically changed the course of education reform in Connecticut, and we’re going to continue to do that. Your input today will be carried forward.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams told teachers that the education reform bill that passed was very different because of educators’ input, but “there is far more to do. The evaluation system is crippling the ability of teachers and administrators to do what they want to do, which is be educators, not paper pushers,” he said.
“There’s lots of frustration in this room,” Rep. Mike Alberts said. “Testing is turning people off from learning.”
Rep. Brian Sear said that when the general assembly passed legislation related to the evaluation system, “I don’t think anyone wanted this as an outcome. I will do anything I can to be involved.”
“When I walked into the room, I knew there was a problem when I saw this many people,” Rep. Daniel Rovero said. “If you keep on your legislators, I think we can turn things around. I’m not saying we don’t need some kind of evaluation system, but not like this. And not implemented as quickly as this has been. Keep up doing what you’re doing so we can let you be teachers again.”
Williams told teachers that it’s very important that they stay involved. “The big picture is, across the U.S. there are so many powerful, well-moneyed forces. Foundations such as Gates and Walton are funding efforts, in my opinion, to undermine public education.”
“I don’t want Wall Street to do to our public schools what it did to our economy over the past five years,” Williams added.
Alberts told teachers, “Don’t let this discussion end here. Reach out to your legislators, know who they are. If you can personalize your emails and phone calls they get heard. If we get multiple emails on a particular subject, it really starts to get our attention.”