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New CMS chief wants more teacher input on tests

Hugh Hattabaugh, the new interim Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, called today for more teacher feedback on the controversial slate of new tests designed to test faculty effectiveness.

The tests have sparked concerns from teachers and parents who call them an unnecessary disruption to the learning process.

Meeting the press for the first time since assuming command of schools last week, Hattabaugh said he intends to continue pushing forward with former Superintendent Peter Gorman's major initiatives, including his push for 50-plus new tests designed to give CMS a more detailed picture of how much students are learning.

CMS rolled many of the tests out this spring. But many teachers called them flawed and turned out to protest at school board meetings, fearing the board will ultimately use the tests in its still-unfolding, performance-pay system for teachers.

They were also angered by the district's decision to push for new legislation erasing earlier rules that would have given them a vote on plans to pay them based on how their students perform.

Noting that there's been "a lot of discussion and even more misinformation about our local testing plan," Hattabaugh said he is asking principals to nominate teachers for new focus groups that will help refine the tests.

He specifically mentioned K-2 tests in his opening remarks, saying he wants to seek ways to streamline the testing process for those grade levels.

"That's a tweak, rather than a major change. But as we all know the new assessments have created a lot of talk and anxiety," he said. "We want to have the most effective, least disruptive assessments we can."

Otherwise, he said he will stay the course on other Gorman priorities such as the strategic staffing plan that puts high-caliber educators in low-performing schools. He said CMS is seen as a national leader on school reform, and he sees his job as keeping things running smoothly while the school board searches for Gorman's permanent replacement.

"My job is to keep the car on the road for the next year," he said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."