Thursday night, the Board of Education nominated the Waterford School District to be part of a 10-district pilot program by the state that focuses on the way teachers are evaluated.
The new evaluation system would provide more professional development to teachers, all paid for by the state, according to Assistant Superintendent Craig Powers. It also makes it easier for the district to remove teachers proven to be ineffective, according to various published reports.
While Waterford is nominating itself, there is no guarantee it will be picked, Superintendent Jerome Belair said. But it is better to be part of the two-year pilot program and be able to influence the way the evaluation process is done, rather than have it forced on the district in two years without any input, he said.
“Quite frankly I’d rather participate in this from the beginning than have it forced on us later,” Belair said.
Belair said he would have to talk to the teachers union before asking to be part of the program. However, Waterford teachers are part of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that strongly supported the state’s new law with its Connecticut leader, Waterford’s own Sharon Palmer, clapping in the front row when Gov. Dannel Malloy signed it into law.
Malloy said his focus would be overhauling Connecticut’s education system, especially looking at the way teachers are evaluated. The goal was to provide more professional development to teachers to increase performance and also to terminate teachers proven to be ineffective.
Connecticut's teacher unions and several key legislators, including Waterford State Sen. Andrea Stillman, balked at the idea. After several weeks of behind-closed-doors negotiations, the state came up with a new plan that would pilot a new way to evaluate teachers in eight to 10 districts for two years, and then scale it to the rest of the state.
The new evaluation system gives more professional development to teachers, according to various published reports. It also allows school districts to terminate teachers proven to be “ineffective” instead of “incompetent,” an easier-to-prove standard.
Several published reports compared it to the system New Haven set up, which was backed by the AFT and praised In the first year the evaluation system was set up, 34 teachers left the district after poor evaluations, according to the New Haven Independent.
The Waterford Board of Education agreed to nominate itself to be one of the 10 districts to pilot this program. Again, Belair said he still needs to talk to the Waterford teachers union and then there is still no guarantee Waterford will be picked.
The largest benefit will be more state dollars for professional development for teachers, Powers said. The other benefit would be the ability to help shape this program that is going to be mandated in two years anyway, Belair said.
“(Waterford hasn’t) updated the way we evaluate teachers since 1998,” Powers said. “So we are ripe for an overhaul anyway.”
The Board of Education did not take a formal vote, but agreed through consensus it would like to nominate the district. No board member spoke against nominating the district.