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This article is part of our new feature “State of Education” where we hear what is going on in each state around the country, from an educator in that state. If you would like to write about your state, contact us at email@example.com!
A “perfect storm” is the name given to an event that has been drastically aggravated by a rare combination of circumstances. While circumstances surrounding education in Connecticut are not rare, the confluence of three factors: a new evaluation system, new standardized testing aligned to the Common Core State Standards, and an underfunded teacher pension fund may be creating a perfect storm.
Governor Danel Malloy began his term by antagonizing the teachers’ union, in his State of the State speech (2/8/12), “In today’s system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.” In this environment, the state legislature authorized an evaluation system that centers on single metric testing from the current Connecticut Mastery Tests (gr 3-8) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (gr 10).
An additional complication is the lack of common scoring rubrics; for example, three (3) or six (6) point score results are organized into bands labeled 1-5. The teacher evaluation system emphasizes (40% student performance / 5% overall school scores) these standardized tests in the newly adopted Connecticut Teacher Evaluation (SEED) program. The consequence is that today’s classroom teachers spend a great deal of time reviewing data that has limited correlation between standards of measurement found in current state-wide tests (CMT,CAPT) with newly developed tests (Smarter Balance) and with nation-wide tests (AP, PSAT, SAT, ACT). Ultimately valuable teacher time is being expended in determining student progress across a multitude of rubrics with little correlation; yes, in simplest terms, Connecticut teachers are spending a great deal of time comparing apples to oranges.
Finally, according to The Connecticut Mirror, Connecticut has one of the highest bonded debts, per capita, of any state in the nation. Connecticut teachers do not collect Social Security; their retirement is covered by the state pension. In an article by Keith M. Phaneuf, Report: State Economy Headed for Crisis, “The picture goes from bad to scary, the report says, when one considers state employee and public school teacher pension funds that have less than half the resources they need to meet future obligations, as well as a state retiree health care program for which government has saved almost nothing.” The perfect storm in education could be gathering in Connecticut.