A wide majority of Colorado’s school districts have chosen to use the state’s model principal and teacher evaluation system as the state heads into the first year of evaluations that meet requirements mandated by a 2010 law.

IllustrationHowever, some districts with the largest teacher work forces, such as Denver, Douglas County and Jefferson County, will be using local evaluation systems.

Districts had an Aug. 1 deadline to file “assurances” with the Colorado Department of Education specifying which evaluation systems they would use. (The online assurance form merely asked a district to specify that it was using the model system or, if not, that their local system “meets, or … is in progress towards meeting, the requirements” set by the state.)

Of the state’s 178 districts, 160 will use the model system for principals and assistant principals and for teachers. State officials long had expected that many districts, unable or disinclined to spend the time and money to develop their own systems, would use the state model.

Who’s doing whatTop 10 districts by enrollment

  • Adams 12 – Model for both
  • Aurora – Model for principals, slightly modified model for teachers
  • Boulder – Local system for both
  • Cherry Creek – Model for both
  • Co Springs District 11 – Model for both
  • DPS – Local system for both
  • Dougco – Local system for both
  • Jeffco – Model for principals, local for teachers
  • Poudre – Model for both
  • St. Vrain – Model for both

Others using both local systems

  • Academy
  • Granada
  • Harrison
  • Kim

Eagle and Mapleton are among other districts using local systems only for teachers

Source: Colorado Department of Education

Another 10 districts will use a “hybrid” – usually the model system for principals and their own systems for teachers.

Seven districts, some of which already had their systems in place, will use their own methods for both principals and teachers. The landmark evaluation law, Senate Bill 10-191, allows districts to use their own systems as long as they meet certain standards set by CDE. (See this checklist for details on the requirements that local systems have to meet.)

Overall, at least 18,000 of the state’s approximately 50,000 teachers will be cover by local evaluation systems.

(One small district, Kit Carson on the eastern plains, is not subject to SB 10-191 requirements because of an innovation-district waiver granted in 2011. Teachers who work for boards of cooperative educational services are covered by the new system. Most BOCES have indicated they’ll use the state model system.)

While there will be variations, Katy Anthes, CDE executive director of educator effectiveness, noted that all districts have to meet certain high-level requirements:

  • All principals and teachers will have to be evaluated annually starting this year.
  • Half of an evaluation has to be based on student academic growth and the other half on professional practice, with those two combined to yield a rating of highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective.

Under SB 10-191, ratings have consequences. New teachers will have to gain three highly effective or effective ratings in a row to qualify for non-probationary status. Experienced teachers who receive two annual partially effective or ineffective ratings in a row will return to probationary status.

The 2013-14 school year is a “practice” year in the sense that while effective ratings will count towards non-probationary status, the clock won’t start on ineffective ratings until the 2014-15 school year.

New evaluations will be familiar to some

Elements of the new system have been pilot tested in selected districts over the last two school years. And some districts, like Denver, Douglas County, Eagle and Harrison, have had sophisticated systems in place for some time. Between them, Denver and Dougco have about 8,500 of the state’s approximately 50,000 teachers.

But Anthes noted that in many cases only groups of principals and teachers have been exposed to new systems. In Denver, for instance, the district’s LEAP program started as a pilot in a handful of schools. (See this EdNews story for a look at the DPS system now.)

The state model system

Under the state system, evaluation is envisioned as a yearlong process, not just a quick classroom observation and a principal-teacher interview. Rather, evaluation is supposed to include an annual orientation, educator self-assessment, review of goals and performance plan, mid-year review, assessment by and evaluator, end-of-year review, final rating and planning for the next school year.

The model system includes five quality standards for teachers, including content knowledge, classroom environment, facilitation of learning, reflection on practice and leadership.

There are six quality standards for principals: Strategic leadership, instructional leadership, school cultural and equity leadership, human resource leadership, managerial leadership and external development leadership.

Each standard includes several specific elements on which educators will be evaluated. Districts have flexibility in weighting of the different standards and elements.

The rubrics – scoring sheets – used in the evaluation have five rating levels – basic, partially proficient, proficient, accomplished and exemplary.

Professional practice has been the part of evaluation that’s been most extensively tested before this year. Anthes said that measuring student growth and applying it to teacher performance is the area that will require more work and fine-tuning in 2013-14.

The state calculates student growth based on TCAP scores. (Learn more about the Colorado Growth Model here.) But evaluations won’t be based just on those standardized tests, which aren’t given in all grades and which cover only reading, writing, math and science right now.

Districts have flexibility in choosing what others kinds of tests and student performance can be used to measure academic growth, although CDE has developed a long list of suggested measures. (Get more information here.)

How the state will monitor districts

The assurances filed by districts don’t provide details of local evaluation systems, and the state doesn’t have to pre-approve local plans.

“We may do some looking and checking” of local systems, Anthes said. But CDE’s emphasis will be on reviewing the results of those systems. “We will be checking data as it comes in to see if the systems are operating as we would expect.”