An education reform bill proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy is hitting fierce resistance from the state’s teachers.
Malloy is fielding complaints over provisions that require teacher evaluations and changes to tenure protections from teachers statewide as he embarks on his “Education Reform Tour.” The bill is currently being debated in the state legislature’s Education Committee, which is expected to present a modified proposal early next week.
Malloy’s proposals take their lead from the New Haven teachers’ contract signed in 2009, which was lauded as a “breakthrough” in the national education reform movement. The contract strengthened performance evaluations and reduced job protections for teachers, in addition to giving the city the authority to convert failing schools to charter schools.
Malloy said he is championing these reforms because Connecticut has “lost its edge” as a leader in national education. The achievement gap in Connecticut is the worst in the nation, he said, and the current condition of Connecticut education calls for “boldness and real reform.”
Of the proposal’s six objectives, the one calling for a standardized teacher evaluation system and reforms to the tenure system, called “Develop the Very Best Teachers and Principals,” has stirred up the most controversy.
A state agency, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), would evaluate teachers on a rubric that weights standardized and classroom test scores 45 percent, administrator evaluations 45 percent and parent and student feedback 10 percent, said Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers.
Under Malloy’s proposed tenure reform, teachers would earn tenure based on performance, as opposed to the amount of time on the job, and teachers could also lose their jobs for ineffectiveness, not only for incompetence.
The state’s teachers’ unions have come out in vigorous disagreement with Malloy’s approach, arguing that nonschool factors such as socioeconomic background play a larger role in determining educational outcomes than teacher effectiveness.
“The playing field is not level for everyone else in the state,” Johnson said, whose school district she said has demographics that differ widely from those of high-performing suburban districts.
Malloy’s tenure proposals have won support from management in some school districts. The current process for dismissing teachers is costly and time-consuming, Christina Kishimoto, the superintendent of Hartford schools said in her testimony to the Education Committee on Feb. 21. Removing a full-time tenured teacher can cost more than $100,000 and take over a year, she added.
But teachers said Malloy’s proposal does not account for how difficult it is to acquire tenure. Johnson said Malloy once said in a speech that teachers only need to “show up for four years” in order to receive tenure.
“I almost fell over when I heard that,” she said. “Those first four years of your professional working life are so difficult … it’s four years of being on probation. I don’t know any other professional job where you’re on probation that long.”
New Haven’s evaluation system, which has been praised for helping to ease tensions between teachers and administrators, led to the removal of 2 percent of the city’s teachers this school year. In spite of the similarities between the New Haven system and Malloy’s proposed system, the governor has not yet garnered the same support from teachers that New Haven enjoyed in hammering out its contract.
“The one thing that does distinguish New Haven school [reform] is that it’s been a collaborative effort, not just between teacher’s unions and district but community groups like united way and non-profits, business partners who have invested in some of the schools and projects,” City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said.
Should the Education Committee approve a version of the proposal, it must pass both houses of the General Assembly by May 8, the end of the legislative session, to become law this year.