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May 162011
 

TESTIMONY

In Support of Raised S.B. 1160

AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MODEL TEACHER PERFORMANCE EVALUATION SYSTEM, AND TEACHER TENURE LAWS AND COOPERATIVE ARRANGEMENTS.

 

Senators and Representatives of the Education Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit my written testimony regarding S.B. 1160, To study issues relating to school transportation; to require the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council to develop a model teacher performance evaluation system for use by local and regional boards of education and regional educational service centers; and to include employment in a cooperative arrangement as part of the definition of tenure for purposes of teacher tenure laws.

My particular testimony relates to the development of a model teacher performance evaluation system for use by local and regional boards of education and regional educational service centers.

I wholly support and endorse your initiation of bill to study this particular issue, as well as teacher tenure, as I consider each to be critical components with respect to addressing the dire condition of Connecticut’s economy and national ranking of our educational achievement gap.

I am an executive member and co-founder of a grass roots organization, known as R.Ed APPLES  of Norwalk www.redapplesnorwalk.org which has  70+ registered member s that include parents, PTC/PTA Presidents, taxpayers, concerned citizens, neighborhood activists, politicians and local business owners.

We are political but non-partisan, independent, pro education and  pro teacher but most importantly pro educational change and reform.  While located in Fairfield County, Norwalk is an urban school district, with high levels of poverty and a significant amount of at risk children that need to have qualified staff instructing them.

Our objective has been to politely, persistently and publicly communicate education reform issues to the Superintendent, Norwalk Board of Education, union leadership, local and state politicians, and Norwalk community by conducting debates, speaking out, writing editorials and emails and now it would appear providing written testimony.

Our three may focuses have been on:

  • adult accountability,
  • closing the achievement gap of at risk students and
  • increasing academic rigor

Below are 3 specific initiatives that we have strongly advocated for in Norwalk.  I feel each of these bear discussion in your Education Committee, regarding the teacher evaluation component of the bill:

  • Advocated  for participation by Norwalk in Race to the Top, when our district was not going to participate; ultimately did, but unfortunately did not have the support of our teacher’s union leadership due to largely to the evaluation component.  In the end Connecticut was not successful, perhaps in large part because as a state, we did not go far enough in the evaluation and adult accountability components of the federal grant.
  • Promoted the Foundations of Reading Assessment so as to ensure that children (particularly those at risk have a teacher that knows how to teach reading for both new and experienced teachers hired before 2009.
  • Established links with other state and national reform advocacy groups like CONNCAN in Connecticut and Educators4 Excellence in New York State who are challenging the LIFO policies and Michelle Rhee’s national campaign of Students First.

Connecticut ranks near the top on per pupil spending, but at the bottom in terms of closing its achievement gap.   While educational funding cannot be ignored (particularly during these incredibly challenging economic times) it would appear that it is not the ONLY driver in terms of advancing student achievement, particularly as it relates to education in the State of Connecticut.

While the teacher evaluation process and LIFO policies are no doubt fraught with challenges with respect to how to make it fair, I humbly ask members of the Education Committee, is it fair to short change a child’s education, with a teacher that is not performing, underperforming or failing?

It seems to me that education is caught up in a system that cannot reward the 80% of good teachers and/or principals for the great performance or inspiration to students that they perform any more than it can get rid of the ineffective ones.  And, we’ve been caught up in this debate for years and years now.

Meaningful evaluations or assessments or development plans are not standard at our state level and are too prone to the whims of individual school district union contracts.  So, when we find ourselves in the economic crisis that we find ourselves in today, we cannot make sure that the right layoffs are occurring when times get tough.

I hope that the members of the Education Committee will rigorously discuss and debate the teacher evaluation process to ensure that we have the most qualified teachers teaching and that the LIFO policy is re-examined.

Thank you very much for your consideration in this matter.

Sincerely,

Lisa Thomson

Co Founder – Red APPLES of Norwalk

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