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Conn. Scraps Use of State Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations

Connecticut's State Board of Education voted this week to prohibit the consideration of students' standardized test scores in evaluating a teacher's job performance.

The decision comes after five years of union opposition to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed policy linking student test scores to teacher quality, reports The Connecticut Mirror.

On the state's teacher evaluations, classroom observations count for 40 percent of the score, while feedback from parents and students account for 15 percent. Student growth, measured by teacher-created tests, portfolios, and other assessments counts for 45 percent. Starting this spring, Malloy's policy would have made half of that22.5 percentdependent on students' scores from the Smarter Balanced assessment.

Last week, the Hartford Courant reports, an advisory council headed by Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and made up of union leaders, superintendents, school boards, and principals recommended that the state board waive the use of standardized test scores in rating teachers, and instead use them only as a way of setting goals for teachers and making improvements to curriculum and professional development. 

Before the board voted on Wednesday, the Hartford Courant reports,  New Haven Federation of Teachers President David Cicarella, speaking during in a public comment session, decried the use of high-stakes tests to judge teacher performance as an "unhealthy obsession" with test scores that turns schools into "test-prep factories."

Sheila Cohen, the president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, told The Connecticut Mirror that the board's decision to prohibit test scores in teacher evaluations "puts the focus back where it belongs: on teaching, learning, and student achievement."

Opponents of the decision argued that without the inclusion of test scores on teacher evaluations, schools will have no idea which teachers are doing the job of preparing students for college and career and which teachers could use extra support in refining their craft. "The piecemeal approach taken by the state board today will water down the educator evaluation system in our state and takes us further from the goal of ensuring all our students are ready for success," said Jennifer Alexander, the chief executive officer of the education advocacy group, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.

Without the requirement to use standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, nearly every teacher in Connecticut has been rated proficient or better on evaluations, according to The Connecticut Mirror. Of the state's nearly 50,000 teachers, only 546 were rated "below standard" or "developing" last year.

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