As the Connecticut General Assembly races toward the end of the legislative session, I urge leaders to prioritize the needs of public school children this year — not adults with the biggest megaphones and the greatest influence. Lawmakers can reject Senate Bill 380, which seeks to de-couple teacher evaluations from student performance on standardized tests.
In a recent commentary piece, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, praises the Connecticut State Board of Education’s support for using student SBAC results in teacher evaluations. He contends, “Connecticut continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, the SBE appears committed to continuing to take this issue on.” Contrary to Mr. Villar’s assertion, there is little, if any, evidence to support the idea that including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations will close the so-called achievement gap.
The release of Connecticut’s teacher evaluation results in a school-funding trial has revealed that only 1 percent of teachers were evaluated as either “below standard” or “developing.” Recently, a CT Mirror story covered a discussion among members of the Connecticut Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) about whether and how to amend the teacher evaluation process. In that story, Connecticut unions represented that the inclusion of a state assessment in the evaluation process is unfair to teachers. But, as a former teacher, principal, and superintendent, and a father of six Connecticut children—it strikes me as somewhat obvious that, quite to the contrary, these results indicate a strong, existing bias in favor of protecting teachers from data.
As the state of Connecticut wrangles with the budget in the coming weeks, one area of the budget the legislature has not yet considered for cuts is the state’s SBAC testing program. The state estimates it will spend $17 million developing and administering standardized tests during the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years. Standardized testing has come under increasing scrutiny across the nation, particularly in its use for high-stakes decisions such as student promotion, in teacher evaluations, and other school personnel decisions.
I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is, as a public school employee and practicing school psychologist, to have federal legislation written that continues to allow our students to be assessed by an unproven and invalid standardized test process and also enables the charter school industry to take funds allocated for public school students and divert them to their own private business interests.