Details Will Dictate District Success with Colorado's New Educator Evaluations
It’s been awhile since I’ve written about good old SB 191, Colorado’s 2010 law passed in an attempt to create a more meaningful teacher and principal evaluation system. As the 2013-14 school year gets underway, school districts across the state are meeting the requirement to put the new system into place. What can we expect?
That’s the question to ask, as observers wonder how the new system will affect classroom practices and behaviors, as well as interactions with principals and the role of districts in support. What we do know as of August 1 is who will follow the state’s model evaluation system. Ed News Colorado tells us that 160 of 178 districts have adopted this approach fully, further noting:
Another 10 districts will use a “hybrid” – usually the model system for principals and their own systems for teachers.
Jeffco, the state’s largest district, is among the “hybrid” category. According to Ed News, only seven districts are going their own route completely:
- Douglas County
- Harrison 2
- Academy 20
- Boulder Valley
Interestingly, the last two are among Colorado’s smallest school districts — enrolling a combined 269 students during the previous year. Meanwhile, Boulder Valley and Denver are the only two unionized districts to fit the distinction. As for DPS, we can only hope they have opted to LEAP completely away from embedding a “social justice” political agenda into teacher evaluations. It’s hard to say how much Boulder or other districts would be tempted to go that direction, as well.
Word on the street is that teachers all over Colorado are anxious and concerned about how the new system will play out. That’s only natural, and how different districts address the challenge remains to be seen. Douglas County piloted its cutting-edge CITE system across the district during the past school year. Even as high and growing numbers of Dougco teachers gave high marks about their working conditions on the state’s TELL survey, many expressed reservations about the fairness and quality of evaluations.
One wonders what their responses would be after the first round of evaluations have been completed, with the overwhelming majority of district schools delivered consistent and rigorous results — all tied to teacher pay increases. While making strides through last year’s growing pains give Dougco leaders confidence they are ahead of the pack, the only other district that may rival them at this point is Harrison 2, near Colorado Springs. Under former superintendent Mike Miles, Harrison has been working at this kind of dramatic change for years.
No doubt it also will be worth seeing what Academy 20, the state’s second-largest non-union school district (behind Douglas County), has done in deciding to go its own way on teacher and principal evaluations, too. All these districts have to “meet or exceed” the state’s requirements.
I am curious to see how all the districts’ different choices will play out in this important school year, how much we will see educators’ effectiveness recognized and rewarded, and what impact it ultimately will make for students. Despite the best of intentions in passing SB 191, and in crafting the implementation, I strongly believe the most important features will end up being in the details.