Superintendent Stephen Falcone presented the new state-mandated teaching evaluation standards to the Board of Education during a budget discussion last week.

Currently, Darien uses its own evaluation system. For the first four years, each teacher participates in three observations per school year.

"Those observations are the basis upon which we provide feedback to the teachers and evaluate them at the end of the year," Falcone said.

Teachers who are tenured have two options: either create a one- or two-year professional growth plan or receive one observation during a school year.

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Of Darien's 480 teachers, 380 are tenured, Falcone said.

But with new state legislation that passed in July, the state now requires districts to revamp their evaluation processes to "help ensure that Connecticut's schools develop the talented workforce that it requires to inspire our students to higher levels of performance."

Falcone said the district had until the end of January to choose either the plan laid out by the state or to create its own plan around the minimum and suggested requirements. The state's document outlines necessary items for plans to be acceptable, Falcone said.

"(The state is) still saying you need to have a goal-setting meeting by Nov. 15, a mid-year check-in, and a check-in in June," Falcone said. "They're saying that we have to have a system that includes four levels and we're going to assess teachers on these areas."

These four areas are: student growth and development; student feedback; observations; and parent feedback. Falcone said teachers will receive a one to four rating for each component.

"We have to sit down with the teachers and we have to say ... `You have to develop one or more goals with indicators of academic growth and development,'" Falcone said. Half of the academic growth and development portion will include standardized measures such as the CMT while the other half will focus on non-standardized measures such as assessing students' writing performed in class.

Falcone said the district is now required to rate each teacher at the end of the year and determine whether or not he or she met the goals.

"A teacher will say `80 percent of the students in my class or my reading level or the students in the school will meet goal on the reading section of the fourth grade CMT,'" Falcone said.

The schools will have to evaluate every one of the 480 teachers in the district using those criteria.

"All teachers are now required to have three formal observations or reviews of practice," Falcone said.

Prior to the mandate, tenured teachers could submit to one observation, or create their own personal growth plan. Now, tenured teachers must also receive three observations per year, which is about 675 more observations total.

"We're in this situation where this is an unfunded mandate," Falcone said. "This is something that's going to throw an additional layer of responsibility on, and I don't know how it's all going to work out, but our responsibility at the end of the year is to provide a numerical rating to the state based on all of this information."

Falcone said this is a "big project" and it's his recommendation to bring in a consultant, essentially an employee, who provides training and guidance and who performs some of the observations.

"Now as far as how that rolls out I have thoughts, but I don't have a fixed plan," Falcone said. He said some of the options the district has are to bring in a consultant or use someone who already works in the district for observations.

He said the district is talking about a significant increase in the number and the amount of time required to not only do observations, but also adding on the technical managerial goal-setting which has higher levels of accountability. It will take 80 percent more time spent in the actual observation process than before.

"I can't imagine that it's not going to increase levels of stress on people," Falcone said. He said bringing in a consultant on a per diem rate of about $400 a day is also an idea.

Board member Heather Shea asked what the state's going to do with the numbers they receive.

Falcone said it would provide accountability.

"This is about making teachers accountable and making school districts accountable that we have qualified teachers in front of our kids," Falcone said.; 203-972-4407;