Clarifying Misconceptions About Governor Malloy’s Education Bill (SB 24)

With all of the coverage of Governor Malloy’s education bill, also known as SB 24, we’ve noticed that there are some misconceptions surrounding the content of the bill and what it actually proposes.  Therefore, this is the first in a series of posts that seek to clarify some of the misconceptions and inaccuracies regarding interpretation of Governor Malloy’s Education Reform Bill (SB 24) that we’ve come across. 

Misconception #1

SB 24 creates a complicated system of teacher certification that replaces objective state standards with subjective local evaluations that are linked to certification and tenure.

What SB 24 Actually Says: SB 24 addresses the system of teacher certification by removing temporary certification levels, and by reducing the number of certifications from four to three.  Teachers will be required to serve for a specified time period at each level and demonstrate effectiveness in order to obtain the next certification level.  However, if a teacher does not demonstrate effectiveness, they do not lose their certification, but rather move back to Initial certification, from which they can regain higher levels of certification upon demonstration of effectiveness. SB 24 also calls for using the unanimously approved teacher evaluation guidelines issued by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to evaluate teachers, in which 45% of a teacher’s evaluation will be dependent upon objective indicators of student academic growth. CCER Explains:  SB 24 calls for simplifying the system of teacher certification by removing temporary certification levels and reducing the number of certification levels.  While effectiveness is required to earn and maintain the top two tiers of certification, teachers who demonstrates ineffectiveness, do not lose their certifications or licenses to teach; they simply return to a lower tier. Since the evaluation system will be based upon the approved PEAC guidelines, which require 45% of teacher’s evaluations to be dependent upon objective indicators of student academic growth, such as test scores, evaluations statewide will be less subjective than they currently are and more focused on teacher effectiveness. This model also addresses the concern expressed by many teachers, over being penalized by assessment results that do not take into account students who enter their classrooms with significant gaps in their learning. Since the evaluation is based on student growth and progressduring that year, teachers will be recognized for the student progress they effect, rather than penalized for the challenges they face.

Misconception #2

SB 24 abolishes teachers’ rights to tenure.

What SB 24 Actually Says:  SB 24 proposes that teachers earn and re-earn tenure on the basis of effectiveness, rather than on time-served.  Based on the 4-tier evaluation system (exemplary, proficient, developing, and below standard) approved by PEAC, teachers could earn tenure in three years with two “exemplary” ratings or in up to five years with three “proficient” or “exemplary” evaluations.  Once tenure is earned, teachers must receive “proficient”, “exemplary” or one (but not two consecutive) “developing” ratings to maintain tenure. CCER Explains:  SB 24 does not abolish tenure, but rather requires that teachers demonstrate effectiveness, based on the PEAC approved evaluation guidelines, to earn and maintain tenure.  Teachers who consistently demonstrate that they are “proficient” and “exemplary” will be eligible to obtain and retain tenure.  All teachers, regardless of their evaluation results, will be provided with meaningful and high-quality job-embedded professional development to help them improve their practice.  Teachers who receive an evaluation of “below standard,” or, for tenured teachers, two consecutive years of “developing,” and do not show improvement after receiving ongoing support and professional development, will be deemed “ineffective.” By defining ineffectiveness and requiring teachers to earn and re-earn tenure on the basis of effectiveness, SB 24 is setting the necessary expectation that all of Connecticut’s teachers should be effective. 

Misconception #3

SB24 lowers the professional standards for teachers by allowing greater numbers of inexperienced individuals to teach our children.

What SB 24 Says:  SB 24 calls for increasing the Grade Point Average of prospective teachers who enroll in alternative route to certification programs from a B- to a B+. SB 24 also addresses the need to attract new and talented teachers to the profession by establishing a grant and loan forgiveness program for exemplary students who agree to teach in low-achieving schools or districts. CCER Explains:  SB 24 seeks to improve the quality of students entering and graduating from our state’s teacher preparation programs.  Further, it raises the standards for the teaching profession by recognizing and rewarding teachers high-caliber teachers who teach in our lowest-achieving schools and districts.

Misconception #4

SB 24 lowers professional expectations by removing the requirement for a masters degree as a criterion for progression through the certification levels which devalues the process of teacher certification. CCER Explains:  Current statute does not stipulate a master’s degree, but instead requires teachers to clock a specific number of (30) graduate hours in order to progress from an initial educator certificate to a professional educator certificate.  SB 24 rectifies this focus on seat time over expertise by redefining certification requirements in terms of “effective teaching” and ultimately does require an appropriate master’s degree to obtain Master teacher certification.

There are still other misconceptions about SB 24 floating around that we’ll be exploring in future posts.  If you have any questions about what you’ve heard about the Governor’s education reform bill, we suggest that you attend one of Governor Malloy’s Town Hall meetings to discuss SB 24 and send us an email with your question, so we can address it in a future blog post.