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Staples Students Protest Teacher Evaluation Changes

WESTPORT, Conn. – At least 100 students at Westport’s Staples High School gathered outside the school Monday morning to protest a provision in the state’s education reform law that will base teacher evaluations on students’ standardized test scores.

“The reason they did that is that they recognize that what they experience in class will be diminished if the teacher has to spend any more time preparing them for any standardized tests the state decides they need to take,” Staples Principal John Dodig said Monday afternoon.

“These students recognize they are being taught to think critically, solve problems and put together persuasive arguments to solve problems. The opposite would be true if more time is used on standardized tests, as there will be less time to spend on teaching these 21st-century skills.”

The group of students behind the protest are expected to attend Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform package, which is aimed at expanding early childhood education and boosting low-performing schools, was signed into law last month.

Monday’s demonstration stems from an Advanced Placement rhetoric project, Dodig said. At the end of the school year, while the seniors in the class are at their internships, the juniors in the class are tasked with picking a topic to research and presenting a persuasive argument.

Last year, for example, students argued for condoms in the nurse’s office.

Although Monday’s demonstration drew 100 students out of class, Dodig said “in the grand scheme of things” he didn’t become overly concerned by it.

“In a perfect world, there would be no interruption to class time, so I’m torn,” he said. “But the subject of the protest, I think, is worthwhile; the students behaved well and really thought it through so they, at most, missed five minutes of class.”

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