CT Democratic legislative leaders block a public hearing on Common Core and Common Core Test

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Rather than hold a full, traditional public hearing in which any citizen could come and speak out about the implementation of the Common Core and its corresponding unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment testing scheme, it now appears that the Connecticut General Assembly’s Democratic leaders will do nothing more than hold a meeting on these issues with a group of invited guests.

Over the last week, the General Assembly’s Education Committee has held two meetings to select what legislative proposals will have public hearings.  At the Education Committee’s meeting on February 10, the Committee raised 23 bills for a regular public hearing.  Today the Education Committee raised an additional 8 bills for a public hearing.

A vote was not taken to hold a public hearing on any proposals related to the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Testing program or revisions to the unfair teacher evaluation program.

If the Democratic leadership does not change its position, Connecticut residents would be blocked from being heard on the single most important issues facing public education in the state.

Why the Democratic leadership would take such an inappropriate position is not clear.

Maybe Democrats believe that the Common Core is a federally mandated program and therefore public input at the state level is unimportant?

Or maybe they don’t want to be bothering with sit through a long hearing on the Common Core and the Common Core test when they have no intent to change the state’s policies on this issue?

Or maybe they think that the best strategy is to duck the issue and hope it all blows over before this November’s election?

Or maybe Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor or representatives of the Malloy Administration have ordered legislative leaders not to allow a debate on the issue?

But none of those explanations serve as a remotely reasonable excuse to prevent a public hearing on the Common Core, the Common Core testing or the warped teacher evaluation system.

And, of course, it didn’t take long for the Republicans to take advantage if the Democrat’s arrogance or misstep.

Earlier today, House Republican Leader Larry Cafero put out a press release calling upon Democrats, “to stage a full public hearing in the Education Committee on the controversial Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluation standards that have caused upheaval in state public schools.”

In a strongly worded letter to the Democratic Chairs of the Education Committee, the Republican House Leader wrote;

“We have heard from thousands of educators and parents outside the legislature on these matters. As lawmakers and their elected officials, we owe the public the chance to address these issues in a formal setting within the General Assembly,’’

Cafero opened fire on the Democrats asking, “…after lawmakers have been deluged from the public, not a single bill regarding Common Core or teacher evaluations was raised by the Education Committee.”

Carfero concluded his letter with;

“This is exactly why teachers, administrators, parents and their children find themselves in the situation they are in now: Common Core was adopted outside of the legislative process which meant that too many voices were left out of the debate…”

In the face of the Republican’s criticism, it is hard to understand what the Democrats could possibly say to explain their behavior and strategy.

For the record, here are the bills that the Education Committee has decided are worthy of a public hearing.

On 2/10/14 the Education Committee raised 23 bills for a public hearing including;

1. AAC Minor Revisions to the Education Statutes
2. AAC the Recommendations by the Legislative Commissioners for Technical Revisions to the Education Statutes
3. AAC Authorization of State Grant Commitments for School Building Projects
4. AAC Education Issues
5. AAC State Education Resource Center
6. AAC Uniform Regional School Calendar
7. AAC Education Mandate Relief
8. AAC the Technical High School System
9. AAC the Minimum Budget Requirement
10. AAC Boards of Education
11. AAC the Academic Achievement Gap
12. AAC Special Education
13. AAC Magnet Schools
14. AAC School Safety
15. AAC Chronic Absenteeism
16. AAC the Storage and Administration of Epinephrine at Public Schools and Public Institutions of Higher Education
17. AAC Collaboration Between Boards of Education and School Resource Officers
18. AAC Social Media Education
19. AAC Teen Dating Violence
20. AAC Access to Quality Pre-K for Children in the Care of the Department of Children and Families
IV. PREVIOUSLY RAISED GOVERNORS BILLS
21. HB 5043 – AA Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education
22. SB 025 – AA Establishing the Office of Early Childhood
23. SB 026 – AA Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education

And today, 2/19/14, the Education Committee raised 8 more bills for a public hearing including;

 1. AAC Alternative Schools
2. AA Establishing a Task Force to Study Paraprofessional Staffing and Pay Equity
3. AAC Student Privacy and the Administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
4. AAC the Availability of an Online Study Skills Curriculum
5. AAC School Readiness Funding
6. AAC State Funding for Education and the Budgets of Boards of Education
7. AAC Student Internships
8. AAC Local and State Charter School Accountability and Transparency

Hartford Courant Editorial Sticks to “Don’t Confuse me with the Facts” Approach.

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No matter how much the downsizing and corporatization of the Hartford Courant undermines the image it once had, I will never stop believing that it the Courant is OUR newspaper and, as such, has earned the right to continue to be known as Connecticut’s “paper of record.”

That’s why I find it so painful, frustrating and sad when they write editorials that lack an underpinning of facts.  I understand the desire to pander to the powers that be; sitting governors and corporate leaders, but when the Hartford Courant simply re-prints their propaganda without addressing the most basic truths it further undermines the paper’s credibility and reputation.

Yesterday, our Hartford Courant’s editorial demanded that above all else, the “Governor should insist on tying evaluations to consequences.”  [http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-malloy-should-hold-the-line-on-school-reform-20120418,0,2203043.story]

The Courant writes that “Mr. Malloy first proposed to tie a new system for evaluating teachers to certification. That lit a firestorm of teacher union resentment and opposition. But evaluations have to have consequences in a teacher’s world, as they do in just about everybody’s workplace. Evaluations have to be tied to something, whether certification or the granting of tenure or pay.

Although I can hardly speak for teachers or their unions, I feel very comfortable speaking to what I have learned as I’ve monitored the impact of public policies on public education for nearly four decades or so.  To my knowledge, no reasonable person opposes the concept of evaluations being used as the tool to keep good teachers, identify those teachers who need extra help and get rid of those who are not up to the challenges of successfully leading a classroom.

To suggest that Dan Malloy is the only one who believes that proper evaluation must be part of the teacher selection, retention and dismissal process is to simplify the argument to the point that the Courant squanders its opportunity to be a constructive addition to the debate.

To my knowledge the question is not one that is necessarily related to tenure or even certification.  A teacher who has a problem in an inner city classroom where students are speaking five different languages may not have that same problem in a homogeneous, suburban classroom just as the opposite could be true as well.

Let us all be honest.  The issue is not that the only way to proceed is to tie evaluation to tenure or certification, but to use it as part of a reasonable, efficient and effective system to get teachers additional training or remove them from that classroom setting.

And so, with that truth, the question is not whether there should be extensive evaluation procedures but what should be part of that evaluation process.

As the Courant knows, Dan Malloy and the “education reformers” have put an inordinate weight on the role of standardized testing (i.e. his comment that he supports teaching to the test so the test scores go up).

Now, the Courant is very familiar with the issue of CMT test scores because it regularly applauded Steven Adamowski, the former Hartford Superintendent of Schools, for his success in improving test scores.

It was only after the fact that we learned that the controversial administrator was able to improve CMT scores by moving, at least in part, significant numbers of low performing children from the CMTs to an alternative MAS test.

I recently found a PowerPoint presentation that Mr. Adamowski used at various national conferences in which he took credit for the “spectacular” increase in mastery test scores in Hartford, Connecticut.

One chart informed the audience that Hartford was able to increase the percentage of 3rd graders who achieved “goal” in Reading by 4.2 percent in just one year.  However, nowhere did he explain that the number of third graders taking the CMT Reading test dropped by 5.9 percent because he moved the low performing students from the CMT to the MAS.

In fourth Grade Mathematics, Adamowski bragged that the percentage of students who achieved goal grew by 3.9 percent but failed to mention that 5.9 percent of low performing fourth graders stopped taking the CMT test in Mathematics.

And the list went on and on.

Ironic to note that in two different studies there was an extraordinary statistical correlation between the percentage of low scoring students that were moved out of the CMT and the proportional increase in CMT scores,.  In fact, if the ratio of a one percent drop in participation led to a .6 percent increase in the number of T students who reached scores it is possible that the entire change in Hartford, or at least, the vast majority of change, was due exclusively to the bait and switch technique of moving low performing students out of the CMTs.

If this is what occurred, should Adamowski get a bonus for figuring out how to “beat the system” or do the individual teachers get bonuses and get to keep their jobs because they suddenly had “extraordinary” success in improving test scores?

Meanwhile, we know that one of the single biggest factors in influencing CMT scores are language barriers.

As the Courant knows, 40 percent of Hartford students go home to households that do not use English as their primary language.  However, equally true is that these third and fourth grade non-English speaking or non-English proficient students being taught science and math in English and then tested in English – despite a significant number who don’t speak English are very unlikely to be getting help with their English language homework in science and mathematics when they live in homes that don’t use English.

The result of this “designed to fail” to fail approach is that English speaking 5th grade students who take the Science CMT score at goal at  62.1% compared to 9.5% or of the non-English speaking students scoring at goal on the 5th grade Science CMT.

Imagine being taught science and math in a language you don’t know and then being tested in science in math in a language you don’t understand.

Now, we know that there are hundreds of millions of Spanish speaking people around the world are proficient in science and math, so we can be pretty damn sure that problem is not genetic but the way in which we are infusing language barriers into the teaching of science and math.

When the education reformers talk about using evaluations in the process of determining which teachers stay or go, they always talk about using CMT test scores to measure as a measure of effectiveness.   To date, some of the reformers in Connecticut want standardized test scores to account for 28 percent of the teacher’s evaluation, while others want test scores to account for about 40 percent of the evaluation.

If there is a newspaper editorial board in the entire country that should recognize the complexity of this issue is well documented, it is the Hartford Courant.  This is one of the places where the issue is well documented and the most profound.

The fact is, Connecticut’s great newspaper does a tremendous disservice to its readers, our state and the quality of the “Education Reform” debate when it says something as naïve as the “Governor should insist on tying evaluations to consequences.”

Despite the claims of the “reformers”, no one is suggesting that we stick with the status quo.  However, the Courant editorial board should be especially sensitive to the fact that there are people out there who have figured out how to game the system, while there are significant challenges facing those who are trying to teach math and science – in English – to non-English speaking students who must then turn around and take standardized tests on those subjects in a language in which they are not proficient.

Do you really believe that is the best way to evaluate teachers?

Or do you think there should be a comprehensive evaluation system used to get help for those teachers who can benefit from additional instruction while moving out those who can’t get the job done?

When the Courant resorts to the simplest of rhetoric we all suffer.

Legislators…What Ever You Do – DON’T READ THE BILL!

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“Okay, no more questions?  Good…let’s vote”

In the coming days we’ll hear Governor Malloy ramp up his rhetoric about the need to vote and vote quickly on his “Education Reform” bill.

Malloy’s exclusive focus on trying to make people believe that Senate Bill 24 is only about modifying teacher tenure and the evaluation system for teachers seems to be working.

His biggest concern has got to be that legislators, the media and the public will actually read the 163 page bill.

While it is true that the bill includes significant changes to Connecticut’s teacher tenure and evaluation laws, there are still many people – including many legislators – who apparently don’t know or don’t understand the ramifications of some of the other incredible policy changes that have been packed deep into Malloy’s bill.

Here is a quick refresher on the ones we’ve discussed to date:

Section 7:  Money for Charter Schools at the Expense of Urban Schools:

Malloy’s proposal is to give Connecticut’s charter schools an increase of $2,600 per student, $1,000 of which will be funds that are presently going to Connecticut’s lowest performing, poorest and predominantly most minority school districts.

The result will be that funding for the average charter school student will go up by $2,600 while the funding for the students in the 30 poorest school districts will only go up by $150 per student.

The biggest winner of all will be Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor helped create and manage for the past 8 years before he resigned to become Malloy’s point person on education reform.

Achievement First, a company that educates less than 3,000 students receive more NEW money than the entire Hartford School System, New Haven School System or Bridgeport School System.

Section 8:  Start Up Grants for Charter Schools/Limiting Collective Bargaining:

Meanwhile, as many school districts continue to lay-off teachers and cut vital programs, Section 8 of Malloy’s bill provides a NEW grant program for NEW charter schools.  Malloy’s bill provides these new charter schools with a $500,000 start-up grant, $3,000 per student grants and, for the first time in Connecticut, language limiting collective bargaining rights for teachers in these new charters.

Section 11:  Penalize Small Districts:

Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill will penalize and take education funding away from school districts that have less than 1,000 students.

While small, neighborhood elementary schools are not only allowed but encouraged for urban and suburban districts, Malloy’s bill will force small towns to regionalize their elementary schools or face losing their state education funding.

Section 18:  Commissioner’s Network – taking over 25 low performing schools – while attempting to reverse the Bridgeport Supreme Court Decision:

One of the most amazing sections of the entire bill is Section 18 which gives the gives the Commissioner of Education the authority to unilaterally take over up to 25 Connecticut schools.

He can manage these schools himself or delegate the control of the schools to some 3rd party, including a private entity.

The “Commissioner’s Network” schools would be exempt from Connecticut laws concerning the use of consultants, competitive bidding and purchasing.  All teachers in these schools would be laid off and although they can re-apply for their jobs, Connecticut’s collective bargaining laws WILL NOT apply in “Commissioner’s Network” schools.

And as if the language on the “Commissioner’s Network” schools was not shocking enough, Section 18 also includes the language attempting to legalize the state of Connecticut’s illegal attempt to take over the Bridgeport School System.  The bill’s language says that if the state did do something illegal, that action is no longer illegal.

At the same time, the bill quietly removes the requirement that the state must help train and support local school boards before it can unilaterally un-elect elected officials.  With that nuisance out-of-the-way, it will be easier for Malloy’s Department of Education to simply disband local boards of education in towns that they want to take over. More

O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! – Sir Walter Scott

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ConnCAN CEO Patrick Riccards (Photo courtesy of New Haven Independent)

The ConnCAN approach – Don’t let the truth get in your way…

Last week, ConnCAN, the pro-charter school and “education reform” advocacy group was trumpeting the results of a survey that they had conducted of Connecticut teachers.

The problem is that ConnCAN’s report on their own survey is nothing short of a lie – and yet these are the people who are saying that Connecticut’s legislators should vote for the “education reforms” that they are proposing.

The anti-tenure reformers claimed that their survey proved that (1) “More than four out of five Connecticut public school educators say schools and districts ought to be able to dismiss teachers and administrators with a documented history of poor performance.”  And (2) “Nearly 60 percent say educators should be promoted and receive tenure based on their success with increasing student achievement growth.”

After reading their press release and related PR about their survey an observer would be left to believe that Connecticut educators support the positions being put forward by ConnCAN and Governor Malloy.

But not surprisingly, in this day and age of being loose with the facts and misrepresenting the results to get the headline, their own data doesn’t back up the claims they are making.

In fact there isn’t even a question that would allow ConnCAN to intellectually claim that “nearly 60 percent say educators should be promoted and receive tenure based on their success with increasing student achievement growth.”

How ConnCAN makes that claim reveals much about their level of honesty.

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“…only thing you have to do is show up for four years.” – Dan Malloy

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No he wasn’t talking about being Governor; he was talking about being a Connecticut public school teacher…

Photo courtesy of Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsjunkie

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
 Alabama        X    
Alaska          X    
Arizona          X    
Arkansas        X    
California        X      
Colorado          X    
Connecticut           X  
Delaware          X    
Florida Only annual contracts        
Georgia          X    
Hawaii        X      
Idaho Only annual contracts        
Illinois            X  
Indiana          X    
Iowa          X    
Kansas          X    
Kentucky            X  
Louisiana          X    
Maine          X    
Maryland          X    
Massachusetts          X    
Michigan              X
Minnesota          X    
Mississippi        X      
Missouri              X
Montana          X    
Nebraska          X    
Nevada        X      
New Hampshire              X
New Jersey          X    
New Mexico          X    
New York          X    
North Carolina            X  
North Dakota        X      
Ohio              X
Oklahoma          X    
Oregon          X    
Pennsylvania        X    
Rhode Island 2 yrs “ineffective” evaluations leads to dismissal      
South Carolina        X      
South Dakota          X    
Tennessee              X
Texas          X    
Utah          X    
Vermont        X      
Virginia          X    
Washington          X    
West Virginia          X    
Wisconsin          X    
Wyoming          X    

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].

The “Tenure” Debate: Attracting and retaining good teachers or a political maneuver to win over the anti-teacher forces?.

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You can’t have an honest debate about taxing and spending when you are “cooking the books.”

And you can’t have an honest discussion about education reform and the teacher tenure system when you aren’t honest about what teacher tenure is.

Governor; you know the facts and if there is anything you are unsure about you can certainly get the correct answer from your Lt. Governor because Nancy Wyman has been one of the most honest, forceful champions for education and teachers and the teaching profession that has ever served this state.

The fact is that Teacher  Tenure does not a guarantee a teacher’s job for life.

What it does do is set up a system in which teachers can be terminated for cause but cannot be fired for what are called “arbitrary and capricious” reasons meaning that they cannot be fired for political reasons and they cannot have their lives ruined as some part of a personal vendetta.

What you have described as ”Tenure” is much more like the system that has built up in American’s colleges and universities and is part of what is traditionally called academic freedom.

I know because both my parents were “tenured” faculty at the University of Connecticut.

School teachers do not have that type of tenure.

And Governor, YOU know the difference too.

The facts are very simple.

New teachers in Connecticut have a four-year probationary period.  There is NO other job in our economy with such a long probationary period.  Normal jobs come with probationary periods of thirty days, sixty days, three months, six months or even a year.  That is the way our economy and business work.  You hire an employee and you have a period of time to judge whether they are good or not good.  As a small business owner I used a probationary period for fifteen years, a probationary period that lasted 6 months not four years.  Probationary periods are standard business practice because employers need an opportunity to evaluate new hires and easily release them if they aren’t appropriate for the job.  No employer requires their employees to work for four years in a probationary status, but that is exactly what we do to teachers.

And let’s be clear, during that four-year probationary period a teacher can fired or let go at any time for any reason.

It is the present law.  If the school principal, the superintendent of schools or the Board of Education feels that a teacher is not up to the challenge or appropriate for their program they can be fired.  Most often it is not about the quality of the teacher but the availability of the resources.  We all know teachers who were let do during their four-year probationary period not based on their performance but as a result of budget cuts.

In addition, you’ve said repeatedly that teachers are not evaluated or held accountable.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that school administrators have a fundamental responsibility to oversee their schools. They have a responsibility to know what is going on in their schools and know how their teachers are doing and that doesn’t come from some standardized test, it comes from them doing their job.

And if they can’t tell whether a teacher will be a good teacher in four years they don’t deserve the job, the title or the six figure salaries that they get.

In Connecticut, after four years, the teacher is given tenure status but remains on a year-to-year contract.  They can be fired, but like many in the private sector, they can only be fired for cause.  What tenure does is lay out the process for firing a teacher for cause.

If you don’t like the actual hearing process then propose appropriate changes.  A number of useful changes have been proposed including significant changes that have come for the teacher unions themselves.

But instead of discussing those, we’re witnessing a coordinated effort to mislead Connecticut’s citizens about what tenure is and a rush to throw out the valid, important and historic tenure system as way to pander to those who blame teachers for the incredibly difficult challenges that face our society, especially those in our inner cities.

Now is the time to discuss education reforms including how to properly evaluate teachers and ensure that there is a fair system for removing those who are deemed not good enough?

First, Connecticut’s education system must require that school administrators do their job and use those first four years as a period to not only develop and strengthen the capabilities of new teachers but evaluate whether they are up for the task.

Second, Connecticut needs to develop an ongoing teacher evaluation system that identifies which teachers are doing well, which teachers need additional training or support but with that help can successfully do their jobs and which teachers don’t have what it takes or have lost their willingness to put in the time and energy to be an effective teacher.

Third, Connecticut needs to examine and where appropriate reform the process for removing teachers that need to be removed.

The fact is – this isn’t hard to do.  In a matter of months, not years,Connecticut could be well on the way to implementing a system that is fair, open, honest and equally implemented across the state.

But we also know that wouldn’t satisfy those who are out for blood.

The anti-teacher faction claim that nothing short of a 3 to 5 year “teaching certificate” will do so that no matter what teachers can be removed for any reason and without due process at the end of three or five years.

And you know what will happen.  When local budgets are tight, the teacher who is rated as “satisfactory” and making $40,000 will be kept while the teacher who is rated “exemplary” but is making $80,000 will be dropped.

And here is a question for these anti-teacher forces.  The goal is to attract and keep the best teachers which mean you want people who have had a broad-based high quality college education.  It is not uncommon for students to be weighed down with huge student loans debts.  Your alma-mater, for example, costs more than $54,000 a year.

So your star students are enticed into the teacher profession owing over $200,000 in student loans.  You make it through the four-year probationary period, you get your five-year teaching certificate and then you are let go –after nine years – not because you aren’t good or even great but because you get paid more than the teacher with far less experience.

If this is really about attracting and retaining the best teachers then tell the anti-teacher forces to back off and do what you must know will make a real difference for our children and the schools they attend.

Set up a system that successfully evaluates teachers, require school administrators to do their job and remove below standard teachers in the first four years and then come up with a simple on-going process where those who are evaluated poorly are removed.

Governor you are in a unique position to set the standard for how policy changes should be developed in this country.  You could have brought people together and found an effective and lasting solution.  There are some out there who hate teachers but there are far more who are seeking leaders who will do what is right and not attempt to turn every situation into a public spectacle.

The Year of Education could have and should have been a win – win – win.  Instead we are witnessing what has become the symbol of modern American politics.  Create enemies where there are none and then hit the road to “sell” your message that by brute force and dismissing the facts you can appear tough when what was actually needed was sensitivity, sophistication and wisdom.

The question is – is this debate really about attracting and retaining good teachers or is it about some political maneuvering where the “message” is more important than reality?

For an excellent take on this issue be sure to read Jonathan Kantrowitz’s commentary piece - http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2012/02/09/malloys-attack-on-tenure/