Scanlan/Johnston: Clarifying Colorado’s teacher bill
There has been a regrettable amount of misinformation about Senate Bill 191, Great Teachers and Leaders.
We wrote this bill because research confirms that the two most important school-based factors in improving student achievement are the effectiveness of the teacher and the principal.
Yet, we still don’t have an agreed-upon definition of a great teacher or principal. Our bill starts that process by requiring that definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness depend on how well their students are growing. The bill calls on the Council on Educator Effectiveness – made up of teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, students and business leaders – to spend the next year defining teacher effectiveness and determining how to assess it using multiple measures of student growth, rather than basing it on just one test like the CSAP.
The council will ensure teachers and principals are fairly evaluated based on the diverse needs of their students, including those with special needs and high rates of mobility. Districts will then have a year to work with their teachers and the Department of Education to identify the assessments they plan to use to measure growth in each content area and grade level. Then, the state has another year to pilot the program before it is implemented statewide.
Once the council has developed a credible system for defining, evaluating and improving teacher and principal effectiveness, these definitions will be used to guide an evaluation system that rewards our best teachers and helps those who are struggling. Our bill links 50 percent of teacher evaluation to demonstrated student growth and 50 percent of principal evaluations to student and teacher growth. Focusing on growth means that it doesn’t matter if a student walks in the door at the fifth percentile or the 90th percentile. All that matters is how much they grow from where they started.
SB 191 requires teachers earn and keep the privilege of non-probationary status – sometimes called tenure – by requiring three consecutive years of effective performance to earn the privilege and two consecutive years of ineffective performance to lose it. This bill never requires a teacher or principal to be dismissed; that continues to be the decision of principals and local school boards. It does require that teachers and principals be evaluated based on the impact they have on children and that they earn and keep job protections based on that performance.
Struggling teachers and principals will be provided an opportunity to improve through customized growth plans, and any teacher who loses non-probationary status has the opportunity to earn it back by demonstrating strong performance. SB 191 does nothing to change due process rights and requires the council to recommend a process by which non-probationary teachers can appeal a second consecutive ineffective evaluation.
If we expect principals to be held accountable for the effectiveness of the teachers, then principals must maintain the authority to hire teachers that fit the mission and values of their building. Therefore, the bill ends the current practice where teachers are forcibly placed into schools and establishes a school-based hiring system that empowers the principal and the teachers to mutually agree to every teacher’s employment. SB 191 also changes state law so that districts and schools facing reductions will make decisions to keep the most effective educators first, but can also consider other important factors like years of experience or special qualifications.
We look forward to working with our educators to ensure SB 191’s successful implementation.
State Sen. Michael Johnston. D-Denver, and state Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, are the Democratic sponsors of Senate Bill 191.
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