If you want an example of how politics has stunted the state’s progress towards a more equitable education system, look no further than the latest State Board Of Education decision to remove Smarter-Balance assessment data from teacher evaluations.
In one of their latest commentary pieces, the Hartford Courant’s Editorial Board’s explains why this decision was a mistake:
“…Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said last year that “the vastly overwhelming number of teachers in our state are doing a great job … We don’t need to spend hours and hours entering data to show that.”
Yes, in fact, you do need data to show that. The data in question are student scores from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, which were painstakingly designed to provide objective and uniform data about whether students are learning their lessons.
Data, for all their limitations, are real. Data present a clear picture. Data are impartial. Data are not interested in protecting anyone. Data get to the truth. Data are not stories concocted by administrators to “nurture” ineffective teachers. A collection of stories does not add up to data.
There needs to be a hammer, some way for administrators who know which teachers need to be put out to pasture, encouraged to consider a different career or given help to improve their performance. A strong objective measure is crucial to that effort. Mushy, ill-defined subjective criteria provide no accountability.
Teaching is incredibly difficult, and the best teachers should be well paid. But if entire school districts are being marked “proficient,” it discourages the extra effort that truly separates proficient from exceptional…”
Here’s a link to the full editorial.
If you look at CTN’s video of the last State Board Of Education meeting, part of the reason State Board of Education members voted the way they did was to “move the discussion forward.” That’s code for, union leadership refused to support a system that included mastery testing data — even though they helped develop the state’s teacher evaluation system.
This wasn’t a decision the board made because they thought it was the right thing to do for kids. This happened because, after years of bickering and union lobbying they were worn down.
And, that’s part of the problem. The committee that advises the state board, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), is almost entirely made up of union leadership and state Department of Education representatives. No parents sit on this council. This has allowed the union to leverage their influence to hold progress on the evaluation system hostage.
As the Courant points out, the state board watered-down evaluations, taking away a key component: A universal, objective measurement. Now we’re left with exactly what we had before. A system that will continue to rate most teachers as exemplary.