Today, the state announced that Waterford Public Schools will be one of ten districts in Connecticut to for the next school year, before it is mandated to every district in the state in 2013-14.
“I think it is important for us to be part of the process, rather than have it done to us,” Superintendent Jerome Belair said. “And we won’t be the least bit shy about providing some very honest feedback.”
The state passed a new education bill in May that, among other things, looks to change the way teachers and principals are evaluated. The state is piloting this new method on ten districts the next year, adjusting it with the feedback they receive from the districts and then will mandate it to all public schools across the state in 2013-14. Districts will either have to follow the state plan or create their own that is very similar and is approved by the state.
The biggest change is that evaluations will be connected to student performance data, which means state test scores as well as work and tests within the classroom to a lesser extent, as part of the evaluation system, Belair said.
“My understanding was that we will get all the support we need, both technical support and professional development,” Belair said. “And that was a big part of it.”
Every specific has not yet been laid to Waterford, but there is a meeting in July where it will be explained to the administration, he said. Then, the rest of the teaching staff will receive training once the school year begins, Belair said.
The New Program
Belair asked the Board of Education last week if they would be interested in piloting the new program, where they said yes, and then talked it over with Waterford Teachers Union President Martha Shoemaker the following day. Waterford was one of 36 districts that applied to be part of the program, and is one of ten to be selected.
Belair said that Waterford already uses standardized test scores as part of its evaluation and goal-creating system for teachers and administrators, thereby making it less of an adjustment to the new system than other schools. To ensure that the numbers are fair, the district looks at the growth of students’ scores instead of just the final numbers (so classes with excelling students can compare will classes of weaker students), and that will be continued with the state program, Belair said.
“I think what this aims to do is ensure that there is good teaching throughout a career,” he said.
By being in the pilot, Waterford can help shape the program while getting additional support and professional development along the way. It also is a benefit because if Waterford does not like the evaluation system, it can create its own that isn’t the state’s model, Belair said.
“We can offer some very specific possibilities to the state,” he said. “We can also learn some new possibilities from the state, and might even learn something that is more effective.”