The following letter was sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on behalf of the Shelton Education Association (SEA) on Nov. 24, and a copy made available to the Shelton Herald for publication. The SEA is the local union representing public school teachers, and is affiliated with the statewide Connecticut Education Association.
Dear Gov. Malloy:
The Connecticut Education Association endorsed your re-election bid creating a mixed sentiment among its members. We, the teachers of Shelton, are questioning whether you will continue to support us as well as the education system throughout your next term.
Some of your decisions over the past four years have caused many of our members to lose their faith and trust in your judgment. We have a number of concerns from the trenches that we would like to bring to your attention.
These concerns include the requirements of the new teacher evaluation system with an emphasis on standardized testing, continued emphasis on standardizing instruction through corporate-driven Common Core mandates, both of which restrict the principle of educational freedom in the classroom.
‘Treat us professionally’
With all of the work that has been done over the years to improve the teacher preparation system and the competitiveness of the job market in the field of education, we would kindly ask for you to treat us professionally and allow us to do our jobs.
Our students are in need of a true leader of education in the state. The next commissioner of education should be a former teacher who has a strong background in the field of education.
‘Our members would like to voice our extreme disappointment in your public disrespect of our profession through your words and actions.’
Teachers and administrators who are having great difficulty implementing many of the new mandates handed down by the legislature and your administration desperately needs someone at the state department who understands the challenges schools face on a daily basis.
This individual also needs to be open-minded and personable to all who approach him/her with ideas on how best to improve teaching and learning throughout Connecticut.
‘Overemphasis on standardized testing’
The overemphasis on standardized testing over the years has placed an unfair burden on students and teachers.
We cannot continue to reduce the efforts of students and teachers to a single test score due to the numerous factors that can affect a student on a daily basis. The SAT is conducted on a single day and is one of the largest most widely used indicators of a college bound student’s potential.
Under the recent changes, many children have spent two or more weeks, with multiple hours a day, in front of a computer, all for the sake of ranking our schools. The limited number of computer labs that were built to provide opportunities for inquiry-based learning have been reduced to testing centers.
Precious school hours spent on the measurement of learning that detracts from actual teaching and learning is not smart policy.
We vehemently disagree with those who believe that these tests are necessary to measure teacher performance. Anyone who has spent time in the classroom understands the vast amount of variables that go into a student’s success.
Teacher evaluation system concerns
Lastly, a better approach needs to be taken in regards to the teacher evaluation system.
We understand there is an unfounded perception that teachers enjoy unquestioned job security after four years of employment. This cannot be further from the truth.
Our new evaluation system is designed to rank teachers numerically based on indicators that borderline on the ridiculous in any profession, and include components that are out of the teacher’s control.
The sentiment that administrators need more power to replace ineffective teachers is a slap in the face to the hard work done by the administrators to support teachers.
Our teachers and administrators end up spending an inordinate amount of time on evaluations and the related paperwork that limits the time they could spend on more valuable endeavors.
Our members would like to voice our extreme disappointment in your public disrespect of our profession through your words and actions. Addressing the positions made clear in this letter would restore some trust and faith in your support of teachers in the upcoming term.
by the Shelton Education Association Executive Board
Note: Debbie Keller is president of the Shelton Education Association.