In the State

While All Eyes Are On The Budget Debate, PEAC Quietly Votes To Chip Away At Accountability

Ah, the Land of Steady Habits has done it again!

The state’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC),  tasked with advising the state on annual testing policy, once again, ignored Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling in CCJEF v. Rell,  in favor of shielding adults from consequences.

On Wednesday morning, the committee, made up almost entirely of union leaders, voted in favor of recommending to the State Board of Education the permanent removal of state testing data as a measurement of student learning goals (SLOs) within teacher evaluations.

Related story: State Advisory Council On Teacher Evaluations Ignores Groundbreaking Equity Ruling: Votes To Continue Watered-Down Teacher Evaluations

This decision comes months after Judge Moukawsher struck down the state’s teacher evaluation system, calling it “virtually useless,” because it rated almost every teacher (98 percent) as ‘proficient’ or ‘exemplary.’

What Makes This is Crazy?

While Judge Moukawsher didn’t specify what the state should do to revamp the teacher evaluation system, he did specifically call out PEAC for exactly the same weakening of the system they are pulling now:

“The law gave the board [the State BOE] until 2012 to adopt the guidelines through a typical task force approach required by §10-161d under which they must be adopted “in consultation with” something called the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council or “PEAC”. PEAC Member included teachers, principals, schools board, superintendents — every in education most likely to disagree about what to do — people whose views are vital but whose votes are mostly to stifle a meaningful result.

PEAC did not disappoint. Although it faced a federal mandate to include connections between teacher evaluations and student learning, PEAC did everything it could to weaken this requirement and then recovered a year later to weaken it some more.

Oh, the judge called out more than just that!

He admonished the state for failing to link teacher performance evaluations to objective measurements of student growth; exactly what PEAC has voted to continue to do:

“Measures of student achievement were supposed to make up 22.5% of a teacher’s evaluation. One-half of this — a mere 11.25% of a teacher’s evaluation was supposed to be linked to growth rates…

The other 11.25% addressing “outcome indicators” is illusory.  First, the state allows schools to use any “standard indicator” or any “non-standardized indicator” of how much students learn. Second, the teacher has to agree to use it at all and then the teacher and evaluator have to agree on what weight to give a standardized indicator and what weight to give the “non-standardized indicator.” The goals can be changed mid-year…

If that wasn’t weak enough, the department then granted some two dozen waivers to schools system which don’t want to follow the guidelines…”

Can you now see why Judge Moukawsher described the current system as “little more than cotton candy in a rainstorm?”

At every level, the state’s teacher evaluation system is designed and adjusted by the very people it’s meant to evaluate. This latest adjustment to the system recommended by PEAC does nothing to fix that, in fact, it does the opposite

CCJEF might be in appeals, but PEAC’s rejection of the court’s recommendations shows their commitment to continuing the charade that has become our state’s teacher evaluation system.

Does Connecticut Have A Heart Problem?

So, what do parents think about the changes PEAC is recommending? 

Parents don’t have representation on PEAC, but shortly after the vote, I spoke with Gwen Samuels, long-time parents rights activist and founder of the Connecticut Parents Union — and, I think she said it best: “Connecticut has a heart problem.

While all the buzz this session is on how to fund schools, as a state, we’ve forgotten what’s important. It shouldn’t just be about the dollars spent, argues Samuels, the state should focus on students outcomes.

“There’s no way you’re going to improve education without holding teachers accountable for the role they play in it,” said Samuels. “All we’ll have is a new funding formula, a shiny new tool, and the same process… that means, they threw CCJEF out the window, because he said, “schools are for kids.”

“It’s not a sustainable system because it doesn’t matter how much equity funding you put in place or how much you change the system, there has to be personnel accountability as well.”






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