Conn. Teachers Seek Changes in Reform Blueprint

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A Connecticut panel's call for creating a performance-based state education system has stirred concern among state teachers, who are protesting proposed changes in teacher tenure, professional development, and certification.

The Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut State Federation of Teachers have vowed to lobby legislators to amend the blueprint released last month by the Commission on Educational Excellence for Connecticut.

The 43-member commission, established by the legislature in 1992, recommended last month that the state set standards for K-12 students and require every school to form a site-based council to oversee budget, curriculum, and staffing decisions.

Under the $200 million plan, the state also would set up a professional-standards board governing teacher certification and would amend tenure laws to expedite the dismissal of teachers not performing at high levels.

Although the blueprint was approved by a majority of the commission, the two teachers on the panel said the panel failed in its mission to reduce bureaucratic mandates and free up teachers, students, and parents to participate in school reform.

The C.E.A. and the C.S.F.T., which together represent about 40,000 educators, jointly submitted a minority report this month detailing their objections.

Greater Risk for Teachers?

Robert F. Eagan, the president of the C.E.A. and a member of the commission, said that, while the union was initially "extremely supportive'' of the commission, the members had gotten "bogged down in labor-management issues.''
In its report, the commission recommended that tenure rules be amended so that teachers could be dismissed for "failure to demonstrate effective performance that promotes student achievement and failure to engage in activities to enhance professional growth and development.''

The proposal implies that "the people who will be at greater risk are teachers if students are not performing,'' Mr. Eagan said.

But William J. Connolly, the president and chief executive officer of ABB Business Services and a co-chairman of the panel, said the commission felt that the new system would succeed only if there was "a cohesive, linear system that requires accountability all along the line.''

The unions and the commission also disagreed about oversight of an autonomous teaching-standards board that would be set up under the new system.

The unions proposed that the board be accountable to the legislature, while commission members voted to give the advisory role to the state board of education.

In addition to the unions' objections, observers suggested, there could be other stumbling blocks to approval of the commission's proposals.

Some critics, for example, have accused the report of calling for "outcomes-based education'' in disguise, while others have questioned the state's commitment to pay for sweeping changes.

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