New London school board reluctantly OKs plan for evaluations

New London - To meet today's deadline, Board of Education members on Wednesday reluctantly approved a draft of the district's revised evaluation plan for teachers and administrators, which builds upon the two plans that were overhauled nearly three years ago.

Board members voted 5-1, with Delanna Muse opposed. Member Sylvia Potter was absent.

To bring the district's evaluation up to state standards that were adopted in June 2012, new changes were required, but much of what the district worked to change for its large evaluation revision in 2010 has remained the same.

The largest change includes weighted indicators of educator performance on a 100 percent scale. Forty-five percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on student learning indicators that include standardized test results, 40 percent on educator practice, 10 percent on parent feedback and 5 percent on schoolwide student learning.

Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said there would be another opportunity for the board to provide feedback after the state had provided its own.

"There were two districts, New Haven and us, that were told by the state that we can build around the evaluation system we already have, but there are things that are non-negotiable. The state previously didn't have as big of a role in evaluation systems, but now they do," Fischer said.

He said not meeting the state's deadline for evaluation plan submission would force New London to adopt the state's plan, wiping out four years of effort and hundreds of hours of work.

Board member Jason Catala said he was unsure if the state would just "rubber-stamp" the district's draft.

"I feel uncomfortable with this document. Does the state really look at this? Are we sending something in that the state is going to stamp as 'good' without taking a look at it?" Catala said.

Member Bill Morse asked for data on how the current evaluation system has worked over the past year.

"Is there a teacher manual that outlines expectations?" Morse said. "We're acting in a void, asked to pass this along, but I don't know how well the current system is working."

"There's so much in here that doesn't make sense. It's almost like gobbledygook," board Chairwoman Margaret Curtin said, thumbing through the draft evaluation plans.

One of the new additions to the teacher and administrator evaluation is also the state's requirement of four levels of evaluation based on a scale of 1 to 4, beginning with below standard, developing, goal and exemplary. The district's current evaluation does not come back to a final number and has two levels: either meeting the district's standards for effective teaching or not.

"Considering it's a draft and it's due tomorrow, our hands are kind of tied," member Barbara Major said. "I feel as a board member I have to trust the staff. They seem to have the committee pretty well done, I think we kind of have to trust them, because I never evaluated a teacher or a staff member. That's not my job."


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