As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday February 5, 2013
WALLINGFORD - Although the school district will be adopting the state model for teacher evaluations, members of the Board of Education’s instructional committee expressed concerns Monday night over the amount of work that must be done before the next school year.
“I am very concerned on the impact on teachers ... and I’m very concerned about our administrators,” said Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jan Guarino. “There’s an excessive amount of work being thrown at them.”
With the new state education reform guidelines, the district had the choice of developing its own teacher evaluation plan or adopting the state model. The district chose the state model.
“We’ll be living by the state’s model for a whole year. By the 2014-15 school year, we can make changes to things that we see need to be fixed,” Guarino said.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo agreed that a lot of work has to be done in a relatively short period.
“We have to turn around the district plan really quickly, because the administrators need to turn around their school plan prior to teachers arriving so then they can have time to come up with their personal goals,” Menzo said. “So the summer for administrators — the time that we’re all supposed to take vacation — really is gone.”
While Menzo and his staff agreed that the new reform guidelines have merit, they were concerned about the teacher evaluation process because each teacher will have to be observed and evaluated at least three times a year by administrators. During the first year, each teacher would have to be observed six times.
“I’m concerned about (the requirement of six observations) whether it’s formal or informal,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Ellen Cohn. “So I block off all mornings? Or I block off two days per week and I’m just going to go from classroom to classroom and do evaluations?”
Before an administrator can evaluate a teacher, Guarino said, he or she must first pass an administrative test.
“(There is) this level of anxiety. It’s a significant ego bruise to sit through three days of training and learning the risks of not passing a test,” she said. “Everyone will know (you didn’t pass) because you won’t be able to evaluate.”
With a large amount of work to be done, Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Christine Mansfield said she felt local school districts ought to relay their concerns to the state.
“Take it back to the Capitol — take it back to the commissioner,” Mansfield said.
The new teacher evaluations are also costly, as the district must purchase software to train staff and provide an evaluation grade for teachers. Menzo said the cost for the necessary software is already in the budget and he hopes the state will help fund the first year of implementation.
While the district may be pressed for time, Menzo remains optimistic. “It’s an interesting opportunity, but we’re looking forward to it,” Menzo said. “I do think there are many elements that are very merit worthy.”