The educator effectiveness bill caused excitement, fear and much confusion as it moved through the legislature in a little more than a month. About 200 amendments were drafted for the bill, although many of those were not added or even proposed.

The bill sets some core requirements and uses for educator evaluations, but it leaves definitions of educator effectiveness and the details of the new system to the appointed State Council for Educator Effectiveness and to the elected State Board of Education.

The legislature will have review power over the board’s proposed rules and over a future appeals process for teachers who lose non-probationary status.

And the law won’t be fully implemented until the 2014-15 school year.

Core requirements

  • Evaluations are to “provide a basis for making decisions in the areas of hiring, compensation, promotion, assignment, professional development, earning and retaining non-probationary status, dismissal, and nonrenewal of contract.”
  • Educator effectiveness is to be determined by use of “fair, transparent, timely, rigorous and valid methods.”
  • Evaluations will be done at least once a year.
  • Performance standards shall include at least three levels, highly effective, effective and ineffective.
  • At least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on the academic growth of students.
  • At least 50 percent of a principal’s evaluation is to be determined by the academic growth of students in a school and the effectiveness of the school’s teachers.
  • Expectations of student growth can take into consideration such factors as student mobility and numbers of special education and high-risk students.
  • Educators will be given “meaningful” opportunities to improve effectiveness and provided means to share effective practices with other educators.
  • Probationary teachers must have three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness to gain non-probationary status.
  • Non-probationary teachers who receive two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations return to probation.
  • A teacher may be placed in a school only with the consent of the principal and the advice of at least two teachers who work at that school.
  • Effective non-probationary teachers who aren’t placed in a school will go into a priority hiring pool.
  • Non-probationary teachers who lose their jobs because of staff reductions will be given lists of all available jobs in their districts.
  • A non-probationary teacher who doesn’t find another job within 12 months or two hiring cycles will be placed on unpaid leave.
  • School districts and their unions can apply for waiver of these mutual consent provisions.
  • Teacher effectiveness, then seniority, will be considered when layoffs are made.

Additional details

  • Non-probationary teachers who receive ineffective evaluations may appeal those either through existing collective bargain agreements or to the superintendent or a designee. If there’s no contract, a teacher may request review by a mutually chosen third party, whose decision on whether the evaluation was arbitrary or capricious will be binding.
  • Teachers must receive written evaluations two weeks before the end of the school year.
    Principals and administrators have to maintain written records of evaluations.
  • Teachers evaluated as unsatisfactory must receive written notice and will receive remediation plans and professional development opportunities.
  • The state board will review local evaluation systems and will consider local conditions such as size, demographics and location of districts.
  • The current system of achieving non-probationary status will remain in force through the 2012-13 school year.
  • Effective non-probationary teachers who move to a new district can carry that status with them.

Timelines

  • March 1, 2011 – Council makes recommendations on the definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness, different levels of effectiveness, permitted differentiation of evaluations, testing and implementation of new evaluation systems, parent involvement and on costs of the new system.
  • Sept. 1, 2011 – State board adopts rules to implement the new system.
  • Nov. 11, 2011 – Deadline for the Colorado Department of Education to make available to districts a resource bank of assessments, processes, tools and policies that can be used to develop evaluation systems.
  • Feb. 15, 2012 – Deadline for legislators to review the state board’s rules. The legislature may veto individual rules.
  • May 1, 2012 – Deadline for the state board to submit revised versions of any vetoed rules.
  • 2011-12 school year – Department works with school districts to develop evaluation systems.
  • 2012-13 – New evaluation system will be tested.
  • January 2013 – Council makes recommendations on permanent evaluation appeals processes directly to the legislature.
  • 2013-14 – New system rolled out statewide.
  • Aug. 1, 2014 – Districts shall adopt incentive systems that encourage effective teachers in high-performing schools to move to low-performing ones.
  • 2014-15 – Final implementation to be done in this school year.

The players

  • State Council for Educator Effectiveness – It has 15 appointed members and is part of the governor’s office. Membership includes two executive branch officials, four teachers, one superintendent and two administrators, one charter school representative, one parent, one student or recent graduate and one education policy expert. (The council already has started work under terms of the executive order that created it originally.)
  • The council is allowed to create task forces, which can include non-members, and is to make its recommendations by consensus vote.
  • State Board of Education – Board members are elected from the state’s seven congressional districts. It currently has four Republicans and three Democrats, although there has been little or no partisan divide in the last couple of years. Three seats, two held by Republicans and one by a Democrat, are up the election his year.
  • Governor’s Office – Gov. Bill Ritter, who started the ball rolling with an executive order creating the original effectiveness council, isn’t running for re-election. Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Scott McInnis are considered the leading candidates to replace him.
  • Legislature – Democrats current hold majorities in both houses. All 65 House seats and 19 of 35 Senate seats are on the ballot this year.

Costs

  • $237,869 in 2010-11 and $242,587 in 2011-12 to pay for three CDE staff members. If federal funds aren’t obtained, an existing CDE contingency fund will be tapped. If that doesn’t have enough money, the State Education Fund may be used.
  • A May 11 legislative staff analysis concluded: “There is no immediate fiscal impact to districts; however, the bill will certainly require that districts begin to modify their evaluation process, and devote additional time and resources to teacher and implementation in FY 2014-15.”
  • The law also creates a Great Teachers and Leaders Fund, which can accept federal grants and outside donations, to help pay for implementation. The department is allowed to stop work on implementation if funding is insufficient.

Text of the bill – Capitalized text denotes new law. Note the explanation about what shading and underlining mean in order to track where amendments were made.