Connecticut Lawmakers Approve Teacher-Standards Panel

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In a victory for the state's teachers' unions, the Connecticut legislature last week gave final approval to a measure creating a panel--whose members would include union representatives--to advise the state board of education on teacher-certification issues.

The measure, which also calls for expanding the state's mastery tests and establishing uniform school-by-school performance reports, passed over the objections of the state board and Commissioner of Education Gerald N. Tirozzi.

Rejecting a plea by the unions for an autonomous panel, the board in 1989 had created its own advisory committee on teacher standards. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1989.)

"We had in place a process that ought to be played out for two or three years," Mr. Tirozzi said. "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

The legislation would replace the existing panel with a new, 17-member group that is to include four teachers selected by the Connecticut Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, and two selected by the Connecticut State Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Tirozzi said the selection process would give the teachers on the board "a union orientation rather than a professional orientation."

"I'm not saying union representatives can't be professional," he said. "But they will be leaning to the union position on issues."

For example, he suggested, the teachers might oppose an expansion of the state's alternative route to teacher certification.

But Senator Kevin B. Sullivan, co-chairman of the legislature's education committee, defended the bill as a way of allowing teachers' professional associations to represent them on the board.

"It would be hypocritical to say to teachers, 'We trust you to be professional, but not to say who is going to represent you,"' Mr. Sullivan said.

Judy Boos, vice president of the cea, praised the measure as a "good first step" toward the union's goal of an autonomous teacher-standards board with a teacher majority.

"We haven't changed our ultimate goal," she said. "We think this is a step in the right direction."

In addition to creating the standards board, the legislation approved last week also calls for expanding the state's mastery test--currently given in grades 4, 6, and 8--to the 10th grade as well.

It also asks the state education department to consider adding science and social-studies components to the test. The test currently measures students' abilities in mathematics, reading, and language arts. The results are used to determine whether students require remediation.

Connecticut is also the only state that includes test scores in its formula allocating general state aid to school districts. Districts with more students requiring remediation, and those that show substantial improvement over time, are eligible for more state aid.

Prior to passing the bill, the House rejected an amendment that would have required students to pass the 10th-grade mastery test in order to graduate.

The bill also creates a task force to develop "strategic school profiles" that each district would compile. These profiles would include performance, fiscal, and demographic data for each school in the state, Senator Sullivan said.

"The state does reporting on a district-by-district basis," he said. "But we're more concerned with the school-by-school results. That's where changes affecting students take place."

Vol. 09, Issue 34

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