"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Colorado's SB 191

With lots of attention being paid to the Perkins hearings, the Florida SB6 fiasco, and Duncan's "Race to Nowhere," a merit-pay bill in Colorado is slowly working it's way through the legislature. The Senate Education Committee on Friday passed Senate Bill 191 and will now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill has support from a number of groups - the Colorado branch of Democrats for Education Reform; the state's branch of Stand For Children; Education Reform Now; Colorado League of Charter Schools; and various other groups (some with good intentions, but misled into believing this will somehow improve public education).

The bill, "Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness" (EQuITEE) proposes using an evaluation system that would "provide a basis for making decisions in the areas of hiring, compensation, promotion, assignment, professional development, earning and retaining nonprobationary status, dismissal, and nonrenewal of contract." Here's the bit about these new evaluations:
Every teacher is evaluated using multiple, fair, transparent, timely, rigorous, and valid methods. The recommendations developed pursuant to this subparagraph (I) shall require that at least fifty percent of the evaluation is determined by the academic growth of the teacher's students and that each teacher is provided with an opportunity to improve his or her evaluation and level of effectiveness to professional development opportunities. The multiple measures to determine effectiveness of teachers shall include, but not be limited to, measures of student longitudinal academic growth that are consistent with the measures set forth in section 22-11-204 (2) and achievement levels on any statewide assessment in the relevant subject and grade level or any locally adopted interim assessments approved by the state board to assess student academic growth in the relevant subject and grade level.
Teachers gain nonprobation status with 3 years of "demonstrated effectiveness" and lose it based on two years of "demonstrated ineffectiveness".

But it's not just teachers that will be evaluated with this system. Principals, too, will be even more test-driven now that a full 2/3 of their evaluation will be based on some form of test scores (or the effectiveness of their teachers, also measured mostly by test scores):
Every principal shall be evaluated using multiple fair, transparent, timely, rigorous, and valid methods. The recommendations developed pursuant to this subjection (7) shall require that at least sixty-six percent of the evaluation is determined by a combination of the academic growth of the students enrolled in the principal's school and the demonstrated effectiveness of the teachers in the principal's school.
It's possible for local districts to use their own assessments instead of the state-wide standardized versions, but high-quality tests are difficult and expensive to produce - and it's not like Colorado (or any other state, for that matter) has extra funding to spend on developing better tests (not to mention the extra expenses it'd take to administer high quality tests instead of simply the multiple choice variety).

And here's a bit of a puzzle:
"The three consecutive school years of demonstrated effectiveness and continuos employment required for the probationary period shall not be deemed to be interrupted by the acceptance of a probationary teacher of the position of chief administrative officer in said school district, but the period of time during which such teacher serves in such capacity shall not be included in computing said probationary period."
If I'm reading this correctly, a probationary teacher can become a chief administrative officer without having the three consecutive years required to earn the new tenure-but-not-tenure status. I don't know exactly what they mean by "chief administrative officer" - is that a legal definition of "principal"? - or is SB 191 making an exception for young teachers to skyrocket to high-up positions within a district? I don't get it. Then again, I don't understand the rest of this bill either.

Colorado parents and teachers can fight back, of course, as this bill is not yet up for a vote. They should look to their peers in Florida who effectively organized against SB6. The Colorado Education Association lays out their concerns here.


  1. Anonymous10:54 AM

    As always effectiveness in a classroom is also the responsibility of the student and parents. What is a teacher to do if a student just doesn't care and the parents aren't supportive of education? I have seen this in many cases in the classrooms of outstanding teachers. We can say really great teachers can get everyone to want to achieve, but in reality that is just plain bogus!

  2. Anonymous6:58 PM

    how is students growth evaluated? If it is only through TCAP than we are only testing towards the test, for the test, which lends towards short term memorization not long term knowledge. If we are comparing ourselves to schools overseas perhaps we need to investigate in detail the education overseas. For example in South Korea students go to school very late in the evening and sadly seem to memorize what they need to pass the test. This makes them appear brilliant but if they can't recall what they learned and apply it did they really learn it.