No he wasn’t talking about being Governor; he was talking about being a Connecticut public school teacher…
Reading it for the 10th time and it still makes me cringe.
In his State of the State speech on February 8, 2012 Governor Dan Malloy began his discussion about the issue of teacher tenure by saying “In today’s system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”
My first thought was how Malloy’s speech writer, Roy Occhiogrosso, could put such a bizarre, insulting and ignorant line into the Governor’s speech. Occhiogrosso, who is fond of telling reporters that he’s not a “numbers guy” would describe himself more of a “message guy.” However, best message or not, one does have the responsibility to at least know the facts surrounding an issue.
My second and even more disturbing thought was how Governor Malloy could say such a bizarre, insulting and ignorant thing.
And not only is it bizarre, insulting and ignorant but it’s just not true – and Dan Malloy (or at least Nancy Wyman) knows it.
The law in Connecticut is actually very clear. School administrators have four years to evaluate and, if appropriate, remove teachers prior to the teacher earning tenure status.
Only five states in the country have longer probationary periods.
The Center for American Progress, one of the many “education reform” groups pushing to reform the teacher training and certification system laid out what it considered best practices.
The Center for American Progress wrote:
“The probationary period would be at least three years, during which teachers would be observed at least twice annually. Evaluation systems would consider student achievement as a preponderant criterion. Probationary teachers with more than one poor observation would be given limited support and then terminated if they do not improve It’s time for districts to take advantage of this time period to weed out ineffective teachers.”
Not only does Connecticut have one of the longest probationary periods in the country but take a moment to read the state’s PRESENT law about evaluating teachers;
The Connecticut State law;
- Requires school districts to continuously evaluate their teachers and makes a district’s school superintendent responsible for implementing that requirement.
- Evaluations must address strengths, areas needing improvement, indicators of improvement strategies and utilize multiple measures of the academic growth of the teacher’s students.
- School district’s evaluation programs must be consistent with State Board of Education guidelines.
- And superintendents MUST report the status of their teacher evaluation programs by June 1st of every year.
The truth is that school administrators may not be doing their job, but the law couldn’t be more clear and forthright about how teacher evaluations are supposed to work.
Somehow the Governor FAILED to provide those rather critical “details” in his teacher bashing speech.
The Truth about Probationary Periods:
In his State of the State address, Governor Malloy said “Since 2009, 31 states have enacted tenure reform, including our neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. It’s time for Connecticut to act. ”
The following 2011 National Council on Teacher Quality report includes most of the “reforms” that have taken place in other states:
|STATE||1 YEAR||2 YEARS||3 YEARS||4 YEARS||5 YEARS|
|Florida||Only annual contracts|
|Idaho||Only annual contracts|
|Rhode Island||2 yrs “ineffective” evaluations leads to dismissal|
Source: National Council on Teacher Quality, 2011 State Teacher Policy
When Malloy said that since 2009, 31 states have enacted tenure reform, I’m thinking no one briefed him on the major reforms Connecticut adopted in 2010.
In that year the General Assembly adopted and Governor Rell signed Public Act 10-111 which specifically strengthened the evaluation process by requiring that districts must “continuously evaluate or cause to be evaluated each teacher”, adding the section requiring districts to use “multiple indicators of student academic growth” and giving the State Board of Education the authority to develop guidelines that the districts must follow.
In the 2010 law the deadline for the State Board of Education to adopt the guidelines for teacher evaluation was no later than July 1, 2013 and some guidelines must instruct local education officials as to the “minimum requirements for teacher evaluation instruments and procedures.”
Considering the fact that Connecticut is already mandated to develop much more aggressive evaluation systems, let’s journey back to the February 8, 2012 State of the State Address and see how Governor Dannel Malloy could have handled the situation.
Imagine where we would be today if Governor Malloy had decided to put the interests and needs of Connecticut and its education system above his ongoing effort to become renowned as the “tough, take no prisoners” governor.
His state of the state speech would have sounded very different. Instead of the bravado and political pandering aimed at trashing teachers and blaming them for our inability to overcome the incredible challenges facing our education system, especially those in our state’s urban school systems, the Governor could have and should have said something like the following;
“Connecticut, like states all across this nation is looking for how to ensure that our children receive the knowledge and skills they need in order to succeed in today’s increasing complex global economic system.
Producing better educational outcomes will not only provide Connecticut’s children with a better, brighter and more prosperous future but it will ensure that our state has the quality workforce that our economy will needed to compete and succeed in the decades to come.
The fact is – Connecticut is already becoming a leader in this critical endeavor.
One thing is clear and that is school systems need time to evaluate new teachers, to identify their strengths and their weaknesses and implement plans to consistently improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms.
Here in Connecticut we require new teachers to have a probationary period of 4 years – enough time to conduct effective evaluations programs to determine whether each new teacher really has what it takes to be a truly effective teacher for Connecticut’s public schools.
And it’s important to note that at any time during those four years local school administrators have the authority to relieve the less successful teachers of their jobs.
Today, about thirty-nine other states have shorter probationary periods but in Connecticut we all recognize – state officials, local education officials and teachers and education advocates that we are better off with a longer probationary period so that the evaluations, assessments and decisions about which teachers should stay can be made.
Second, thanks to the leadership of many in you this chamber, in 2010, Connecticut adopted a much stronger, more sensible and effective teacher evaluation process. That process requires local schools administrators to continuously evaluate every teacher and that the evaluation process uses multiple indicators of student academic growth to identify which teachers are succeeding and which need to be asked to leave the teaching profession.
The 2010 law gives our State Board of Education the authority to adopt a standard set of guidelines that will set out the requirements for teacher evaluation instruments and procedures.
Although the law allows the state government until July 2013 to produce those guidelines, I recognize that it is vitally important that this updated teacher evaluation process be put in place so I’ve instructed our Commissioner of Education to have those rules in place no later than December 31 of this year – so we can begin the upgraded the teacher evaluation process sooner.
Finally, I want to address the issue of tenure versus how best to terminate those teachers who aren’t right for today’s classrooms.
In many states this has become an ugly battle, full of confrontation and useless bickering.
We are not going to let that happen here.
The issue is not whether teachers should have due process rights – in this country – we proudly recognize that the importance of due process and are constantly seeking mechanism to expand due process not restrict it.
The question is that once we have effective teacher evaluations systems in place, teachers who don’t make the grade need to be released so we can get a better, more dedicated and more capable teacher into the classroom.
In the past, the lengthy process for removing an unsatisfactory teacher has hurt the quality of education in Connecticut and the reputation of the teaching profession.
The timeline for removing a bad teacher has been long and the process has become too expensive leading some school administrators to determine that it is better to simply leave the failing teacher in the classroom.
We can and will reform that process.
The education commissioner and I have already been meeting with Connecticut’s teacher unions and today I’m proud that we are putting forward a major reform plan that will significantly reduce the timeline and the cost of getting under-performing teachers out of the classroom.
Instead of having a process that could last a year and costs tens of thousands of dollars, this plan will get the bad teacher out of the classroom immediately and off the payroll and out of the teaching profession in a matter no more than 90 days. This plan will also mean real financial savings for local education budgets, funds that can now be put into improving the quality of our schools.
I know and you know that there is no greater profession than education.
There is not a job that is more important than giving today’s children the knowledge and tools to succeed.
Together, in this the Year of Education, we can and will do exactly that.”
[So Governor Malloy – it’s not too late to do the right thing and get “education reform” back on track].