No U-Turns Allowed: Let’s Keep Moving Forward

January 29, 2014 • Demand Accountability

It was a busy day today at the Capitol for those of us in Connecticut who are interested in education. This morning, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) voted unanimously to separate the rollout of the Smarter Balanced Assessments and the new teacher evaluation and support system (also known as SEED). Later on, the GOP held a press conference to call for a public hearing on the implementation of Common Core. It seems that before the 2014 legislative session has even begun, we’ve been bombarded by pushback against these critical reform efforts that have been passed and implemented over the past few years.

While we support PEAC’s decision to separate test results from teacher evaluations this year, we are strongly opposed to any defunding or delay of Common Core implementation. Here’s why:

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation and support system is a sound and balanced system that is designed to provide educators with the professional development and supports that they need to be evaluated and to improve. It’s also an important accountability measure for educators who aren’t doing a good job and aren’t able to improve. The system uses several factors to evaluate educators; and all of the components of the evaluation system (including test scores, which only count for 22.5% of an evaluation) are important in order to keep it balanced.

Similarly, implementation of the Common Core State Standards is an important process that should move forward. The Common Core State Standards were adopted by Connecticut in 2010, so districts have already spent several years working on establishing curricula and instruction that are aligned to them. At this point, schools should be teaching curricula aligned to the Common Core and students should be working on adjusting to these new standards. Any pushback on implementation is both unnecessary and counter-productive.

However, the Smarter Balanced Assessments (the tests associated with the Common Core) have not yet been properly field-tested. That’s why we recognize that a practical adjustment in time frame is necessary before Smarter Balanced can impact teacher evaluations. We need to be realistic about when we can reasonably expect this test to influence evaluations, but there’s a difference between traveling down a winding road and making a complete U-turn. After all of the hard work and progress this state has made in improving the public education system, let’s not end up back where we started.

Although we support a one-year delay in using Smarter Balanced Assessments for educator evaluations, we urge the State to stay the course and include these assessments in evaluations for the 2015-2016 school year.

Educator evaluations based, in part, on test scores are here to stay. And so is Common Core.

Difficult as transformative change may be, it’s our job—as adult stakeholders in the public school system–to make outcomes for children the priority.