A Comparative Look at Teacher Evaluation and Tenure Policies in Our Neighboring States

There has been some public opposition in the past few weeks against Governor Malloy’s proposals.  One of the most common misconceptions about Senate Bill 24 (S.B. 24) is that the proposals it calls for are completely radical ideas.  In fact, S.B. 24 proposes policies that are reflective of the types of reforms that have been sweeping the nation and that have been adopted by many states.

Just take a glance at Connecticut’s neighboring states, all of which were awarded hundred of millions of dollars in Race to The Top funds, and you’ll see that the same kinds of ideas are in the process of being enacted, if they haven’t already been adopted!  It’s time for Connecticut to recognize what our neighboring states already have: that we must reform our public education system to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education, and we must make the necessary changes – or fall behind.

Teacher Evaluations & Tenure Reform 

Rhode Island: In 2010, Rhode Island put new regulations into law that require teachers to be evaluated on a four-tiered scale, with student learning (based on objective assessments), as the preponderant factor in each evaluation.  Based on a four-tier rating system similar to the scale that was unanimously approved by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), teachers in Rhode Island are rated on the following scale:  highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. 

In addition to requiring student learning to be a preponderant factor in teacher evaluations, Rhode Island has adjusted its definition of tenure so that teachers must earn it by demonstrating effectiveness, rather than automatically receiving tenure based on time served in the classroom.   Under Rhode Island’s system, teachers who receive two years of ineffective ratings will be dismissed and any teacher with five years of ineffective ratings will no longer be eligible for state certification renewal. 

New York: In February 2012, Governor Cuomo’s administration reached an agreement with the New York teacher’s union on a framework for educator evaluations.  Forty percent of the evaluation will be based upon student academic testing – both at the state and local level, and sixty percent will be based upon subjective measures such as classroom observations. Teachers in New York will be rated on a four-tiered scale under this evaluation framework.

In July 2011, Michael Bloomberg announcedthat New York City would begin implementing state tenure laws to be based upon effectiveness, rather than upon time served.  Under the city’s new system, teachers are rated on a four-point scale, and tenure is only awarded to those who have been rated effective for two consecutive years.

New Jersey: In September 2011, New Jersey announced that it would initiate a pilot program of teacher evaluations in eleven districts. The evaluation framework is based upon the March 2011 report of the New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force. It calls for evaluating teachers based upon both effective practice and learning outcomes, and it ranks them on a four-tiered scale.

This year, the New Jersey legislature is consideringa tenure reform bill that takes the four-tiered evaluation model described above, and awards tenure to those teachers who are rated effective or highly effective for three years.  Additionally, the bill calls for maintaining tenure through the evaluation system, because teachers who were rated ineffective for two consecutive years would lose tenure.

Massachusetts: In a process similar to the one currently taking place in Connecticut with PEAC, the teachers’ union in Massachusetts was at the table when the Task Force on Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators convened in 2010.  Based on their report, Massachusetts passed regulations in June 2010 that called for the evaluation of teachers based upon “multiple measures of student learning and growth”, judgments about professional practice, evidence of professional judgment, and other factors such as student feedback.  The Massachusetts evaluation system rates teachers on a four-tiered scale, and teachers who receive the lowest ratings are put on an improvement plan of 30 days to one year. 

Like our neighbors, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor have proposed an evaluation system based, in part, upon student academic growth, which ranks teachers on a four-tiered evaluation scale.  They have also proposed making tenure based upon demonstrated effectiveness, as indicated through this evaluation framework. Our neighbors have embraced teacher evaluation and reform policies because they make sense.  They will allow us to identify, support and compensate our effective teachers, provide appropriate professional development and support to all teachers and dismiss teachers who fail to demonstrate effectiveness, despite supports and professional development. Tune in later in the week, when we will be comparing other facets of S.B. 24 to reform efforts in neighboring states.