Chris Watney: Standing up for our students |

Chris Watney: Standing up for our students

Chris Watney
Colorado Children's Campaign, President

With one in four Colorado students failing to graduate from high school and, of those that do, more than 30 percent needing remediation courses just to keep up in college, it is obvious that changes must be made in our education system to better meet our students’ needs. Senate Bill 191, signed last week by the governor, is an important step in the right direction, and the Colorado Children’s Campaign appreciates the leadership of Rep. Scanlan and Sen. Gibbs in supporting this measure.

Data shows that although there has been some improvement since 2003, only about half of Colorado high school students are proficient in writing and less than half are proficient in math. Statistics also consistently show that achievement outcomes are much lower for economically disadvantaged and minority students across grade levels and subjects.

While we are fully aware that Senate Bill 191 is not the only answer to closing the achievement gaps, increasing student graduation rates and decreasing remediation rates, it is absolutely a critical, research-based approach to improving these outcomes.

The bill ties 50 percent of both a teacher and principal’s annual evaluation to student growth. The bill also ends the forced placement of teachers, ensuring that all teachers are hired based on mutual consent between the teacher and the principal. The bill requires that student growth be considered through multiple measures, recognizing the need to use interim assessments and indicators other than just students’ improvement on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). The bill also requires that the multiple measures consider the following factors: special education, student mobility and classrooms with a student population of 95 percent “high-risk” students. All of these provisions were included to account for the number of student variables teachers will likely face throughout their careers.

Senate Bill 191 forces Colorado to take a look at our expectations for education and demand the best from principals and teachers. We are lucky in Colorado to have so many exceptional teachers and administrators. This bill helps to objectively identify those that are doing an effective job and provides support to those that are struggling. This bill is a positive step for Colorado’s kids and we thank Sen. Gibbs, Rep. Scanlan and all the other legislators that stand up for our students.

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