Cincinnati Study, Step Up for Colorado, Bolster SB 191 Implementation Success

There’s more to creating good policy than just passing a good law. This is especially true when it comes to big changes, like Colorado Senate Bill 191’s push to update how teachers are evaluated and retained. It wasn’t that long ago I expressed my concerns about the implementation.

A couple weeks ago the co-chairs of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness presented their recommendations to the Colorado State Board of Education. One of the presenters expressed a hopeful confidence that the 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations based on observed performance would match up with the 50 percent based on student growth.

The good news, as reported by Education Next, is that new research by Thomas Kane and colleagues shows creating such an effective evaluation system can be done — because in a sense, the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Teacher Evaluation System (TES) already has done it:

We find that teachers’ classroom practices, as measured by TES scores, do predict differences in student achievement growth….

…[C]onsider a student who begins the year at the 50th percentile and is assigned to a top-quartile teacher as measured by the Overall Classroom Practices score; by the end of the school year, that student, on average, will score about three percentile points higher in reading and about two points higher in math than a peer who began the year at the same achievement level but was assigned to a bottom-quartile teacher….

The results presented here constitute the strongest evidence to date on the relationship between teachers’ observed classroom practices and the achievement gains made by their students. The nature of the relationship between practices and achievement supports teacher evaluation and development systems that make use of multiple measures. Even if one is solely interested in raising student achievement, effectiveness measures based on classroom practice provide critical information to teachers and administrators on what actions they can take to achieve this goal.

In other words, Colorado’s SB 191 has all the potential to make a positive difference in identifying and keeping effective classroom teachers. A close and careful look at Dr. Kane’s research on Cincinnati’s TES certainly is in order. It can be done. And there’s no reason why Colorado can’t allow for the creation of an even better aligned system.

By the way, you know I’m not the only one who is pushing for this new system to succeed. Have you heard of the group Step Up Colorado? It looks like they are launching a media campaign to help ensure public support for effective implementation of SB 191:

Good for them.