Connecticut teacher evaluations need changes

Four years ago, a cadre of state educators comprised of superintendents, teachers’ unions and local school boards finally agreed on a system for which to evaluate public school teachers: a “report card” wherein 45 percent of the evaluation is based on student learning indicators (such as attendance and test scores), five on a school’s holistic performance and student feedback, 40 on administrative observation of the teacher and 10 on peer and parent feedback surveys.

After a high school experience’s worth of time, educators now find themselves disagreeing with both 2012’s methodology and the means of rectifying it. 

However, there are some obvious starters: for one, the classification of teachers in the categories of below standard, developing, proficient and exemplary. This is confusing because context is everything. Unless a young teacher is intrinsically gifted at his or her job to the extent it is comparable with a seasoned older teacher, they will likely not be as skilled as their elders. Thus, it is unfair to lump everyone into the same category. 

If an older teacher exhibits a poor performance, they should know better, as it is assumed he or she has been at the job for some time and garnered plenty of experience, whereas it is expected younger teachers still need to develop their own approaches to the occupation. Unless there is a separate, slightly modified evaluating system for younger educators, they may be more prone to dismissal, which is inequitable because of what a long-term craft teaching is.

Furthermore, current data under the “report card” based evaluations suggest only 1 percent of teachers were evaluated as “below standard” or “developing,” which seems misleading. The data stayed the same as the 2013-14 school year; one could say this is because there was no need for teacher turnover if everyone was meeting the higher criteria of “proficient” and “exemplary.”

Although this is cynical to presume, it is hard to believe that only one percent of teachers meet the lower criteria, which insinuates that auditors may not be impartial in their observations of these teachers, meaning educators should not subscribe to systems which lend themselves to greater bias.

Unions, superintendents and commissioners alike believe that testing assessments should be more stratified and locally based to meet individual demands of the respective school systems. While that does not bode well for statewide consensus and a holistic, quantitative analysis of Connecticut education, it acknowledges that schools are inherently different and need to be evaluated in kind.

Fairfield schools are not Bridgeport schools and it would be irresponsible to treat it as such. Connecticut is a disparate state containing people of all walks of life, and its educational systems are a byproduct of that.