Malloy's teacher performance plan gets mixed grades
Reform hearing: Malloy targets educators who 'don't belong'
Updated 12:01 pm, Thursday, February 23, 2012
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took aim at teachers who "don't belong" in the classroom, saying his education reform plan would provide a fairer way to judge the performance of educators.
Appearing before the General Assembly's Education Committee in Hartford on Tuesday, Malloy said his intent is not to slight good teachers, but to fix what's broken in public schools. "I believe we now have the foundation for fair and productive teacher evaluations that will give us the tools to tackle this problem," Malloy said.
Malloy has a 163-page plan to reform public education, which is subject to a two-day public hearing at the state Capitol. The part that would overhaul how teachers are trained, evaluated and dismissed if they don't perform was subject to an afternoon-long public hearing that drew a speaking list of 103 people, many of them teachers.
Some teachers who spoke likened the proposed changes to building an airplane while flying it.
"We run the risk of losing good teachers, of evaluation becoming a `gotcha' practice, and of establishing a culture of fear, rather than collaboration," warned Phil Apruzzese, president of the Connecticut Education Association and a fifth-grade teacher in Wethersfield.
When questioned about whether there is anything in the governor's plan the union liked, Apruzzese said the part that talked about early childhood and preschool education.
George Giankakos, a middle school science teacher in Bridgeport, called Malloy's plan bold, radical and needed.
"Bridgeport is an incredibly difficult district to teach in but ... standards need to be established and held," Giankakos said.
Norwalk High School junior Edwin Rosales said it is sad that he seems more motivated to learn than some teachers are to teach. He admitted, however, that motivation is also lacking in many of his classmates. Some will fall asleep in class and teachers won't nudge them awake.
"I can count all the teachers that have really motivated me on one hand," he said, adding he has probably had more than 50 teachers in his school career.
Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said the governor's bill raises more questions than it answers.
"It appears to be built on the theory that if you just focus on unproven experimental ideas, take away collective bargaining, and create an untested system of certification, evaluation, and tenure -- our problems will be solved," Levine said.
Although the union supports the creation of a streamlined dismissal process for teachers, Levine said what is proposed would tie a teacher's certification and license to teach to one principal's subjective evaluation -- a system not even fully developed.
"This means if you are terminated in one district, your certification to teach anywhere in the state of Connecticut is taken away," said Sharon Palmer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, the state's other teachers' union.
Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, in his testimony, said that would not be the case. He said teachers dismissed from one district would not lose their ability to get a job in another district. He also said the new evaluation system will safeguard against teachers in cash-strapped districts from being dismissed merely because they have a higher salary than other teachers, since evaluations would be based on multiple outcomes.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch testified, saying the governor's bill is critical to treating all children in the state equally.
Besides increasing preschool opportunities, funding and intervention in failing schools, Finch said he wants more school choice.
"We need to give parents a real say so," he said, noting his two youngest sons go to the city's Read School.
Finch was asked to comment on a part of the bill that changes the process for state takeover of failing school districts. The current process and how it was used to replace the Bridgeport school board is being challenged before the state Supreme Court. Finch said the court is ruling on a technicality.
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"I hope that both Legislature and the Supreme Court maintain the current stable governing structure that exists in the city of Bridgeport," he said.
Wednesday, the committee will hear testimony on proposals to increase funding for charter schools and to offer additional targeted resources to failing schools. That hearing starts at noon in the Legislative Office Building attached to the state Capitol.
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