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Fairfield Leaders Share Doubts About New Teacher Ratings

Esther Bobowick of Cooperative Educational Services explains Connecticut's new teacher ratings system to Fairfield's Board of Education Tuesday.
Esther Bobowick of Cooperative Educational Services explains Connecticut's new teacher ratings system to Fairfield's Board of Education Tuesday. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield’s public school administrators expressed concerns Tuesday that more rigorous, state-mandated teacher evaluations going into effect next fall might put too much strain on school principals.

“This is going to be incredibly labor-intensive to do,” Superintendent David Title told the Board of Education. “We really don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

Under the new system, teachers and other certified school staffers will be graded based on student achievement, as judged according to specific score goals. The evaluations also will factor in the entire school’s test scores and in-class observations by principals and tests of a teacher’s in-class performance.

Another section of the teacher’s total grade will come from parents’ feedback, based on surveys handed out to each parent asking how the teachers involve them in the learning process.

Teachers and their principals will decide on their own goals before a school year starts, and will have follow-up reviews during the school year. The system should allow teachers to get better feedback to help them improve, said Esther Bobowick, the director of professional development of Cooperative Educational Services, a regional education organization.

Administrators in the pilot program currently testing the system reported needing an average of seven hours per teacher throughout the school year to do evaluations, Bobwick said. That means that a principal with 45 teachers would spend a total of 315 hours, or 42 full school days, on the evaluations alone.

The new evaluation system is not the only major change to Connecticut’s education system coming in the next two years. The state is rolling out new Common Core Standards for school curricula, which would add more intensive requirements for each grade level. The state also is changing its standardized tests to be more rigorous.

The new education reforms are all a part of the state’s waiver for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. As part of its application to be exempt from the strict federal guidelines outlined in the act, the state’s Board of Education needed to implement widespread changes to the state’s schools.

“I don’t think folks really understood the implementation of it early enough on,” Bobowick said.

Because it’s tied to the No Child Left Behind waiver, it’s unlikely the state would delay the new program before it becomes required by law, Title said. He added, however, that the evaluations would work better if his staff had more time to prepare.

“If we could do this well, it would be a big improvement over the current system, and I think it would have an impact on student learning, and would be better and fairer for all concerned,” Title said. “However, doing it this quickly, without the resources to do it well, in a shrinking budget year, is just very, very difficult.”

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