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Darien preps for teacher evaluation changes

Updated 11:43 am, Saturday, February 8, 2014
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The Darien school administration intends to be "nimble" while navigating through potential changes to the new teacher evaluations.

Teachers will not be judged this year or next based on scores their students receive from a state standardized test given through the new Common Core State Curriculum.

At the urging of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the group that developed the controversial teacher evaluation system passed revised guidelines Jan. 29 that will give all districts through March to seek a waiver through the 2014-15 school year.

"It is apparent we are trying to do a lot of things at once," Malloy told members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee. "Teachers are stressed. We have to recognize that."

Malloy said it is more important to get it right than to do it fast.

Interim Darien Superintendent Lynne Pierson said administrators are preparing to consider how the changes will impact their teacher evaluations.

"When our plan was developed, we tried to make it as flexible as possible," Pierson said. "We'll have to see what we may be able to do to make it more flexible."

Pierson suggested that changes may include fewer observations throughout the year.

At the state Legislative Office Building, Republican lawmakers praised the delay, but said it is not good enough.State Rep. Gail Lavielle, of Wilton, surrounded by other Republicans, asked for there also to be public hearings on the curriculum that many districts are struggling to implement.

"There clearly is widespread concern," she said.

Lawmakers in this gubernatorial election year have been hearing from teachers all over the state who are concerned that between a new evaluation system, curriculum and tests, too much is being asked of them at once. Many also oppose an evaluation system that links job performance -- even fractionally -- to a test.

"There were concerns that were expressed by teachers, unions and various counsels about the impact for implementing this new teacher evaluation system," Pierson said. "Nevertheless, we went ahead like most districts."

There is no need to rush, added Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a ranking member of the Legislature's Education Committee, said she was pleased the governor listened to teachers and parents.

"Too much at once is never a good idea," Boucher said.

The plan to give all districts the ability to keep state test scores out of the teacher evaluation formula is expected to gain needed approval this week from the state Board of Education. The state must also amend its waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which details the state's teacher evaluation process.

State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said he is also withdrawing a plan to spend $1 million on an effort to educate the public on the new curriculum.

Boucher is pleased about that as well.

"This curriculum change did not come through the Legislature. It did not go before the people. The money can be better spent in the classroom," Boucher said.

Pierson said the proposed change will not have a budgetary impact in Darien because administrators within the district are conducting the evaluations.

Malloy told the advisory committee that he also wants a working committee developed, comprising classroom teachers and administrators, to share obstacles in carrying out the evaluations and to make recommendations to make it work better.

"We are on the right road. We just have to take time," Malloy said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews