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Major compromise in works on evaluation bill

Proposed amendments to the educator evaluation-and-tenure bill would dramatically lengthen the rollout time for any new system, not requiring legislative approval until 2012 and putting off full implementation until the 2014-15 school year.

Evaluation illustration

The amendments appear to give a big boost to the chances for passage of Senate Bill 10-191 by the Senate Education Committee, which begins deliberations Wednesday morning.

The introduced version of the measure, sponsored by a bipartisan team of senators and representatives, would create new teacher and principal evaluation systems (tying significant portions of the evaluation to student achievement growth), require consecutive positive evaluations for a teacher to move off probation and require teachers with weak evaluations to be returned to probation.

The original bill has been vocally opposed by the Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, which objects to the timelines in the bill and is concerned about how evaluations are used. SB 10-191 is backed by a coalition of education reform and civic groups, plus the State Board of Education and education Commissioner Dwight Jones.

Two other mainline groups, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives, support the concepts behind the bill but want amendments.

Based on a summary provided to Education News Colorado Tuesday, here are the major timetable changes proposed in the amendments:

  • March 1, 2011 – Council on Educator Effectiveness makes recommendation to State Board of Education. (Original proposed deadline is this December.)
  • Sept. 1, 2011 – State board approves regulations for new system. (Original deadline is March 1, 2011.)
  • Feb. 15, 2012 – Legislature votes on SBE rules. (Original bill silent on this point.)
  • 2012-13 – Beta test of new evaluation system. (Original bill silent.)
  • 2013-14 – Implementation of using evaluation system in granting tenure to probationary teachers. (Original bill silent.)
  • 2014-15 – Implementation of using evaluation system for returning tenured teachers to probation. (Original bill silent.)

Other proposed amendments would:

  • Clarify that 50 percent of a principal’s evaluation would be tied to student growth.
  • Remove from the list of council duties a study of how to more equitably distribute teachers to high-needs schools.
  • Specify that the effort is to be funded by “gifts, grants and donations.”
  • Require the Department of Education to identify resources that school districts could use for evaluation systems.

Debate on the bill opens formally after the Senate’s daily floor session concludes Wednesday morning. Consideration of the bill will continue starting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Both sessions are in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chamber.

Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins
Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins

Chair Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, has said he’ll take two hours of testimony from opponents and two from supporters. The plan is to hear opposition testimony Wednesday and do supporter testimony, amendments and probably a vote on Thursday.

Co-prime sponsor Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, said Tuesday she had some concerns about the longer timetable but that it probably was unavoidable.

Bacon, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the other Senate prime sponsor, have been working on amendment language.

The CEA objected strongly to changing the timelines contained in Gov. Bill Ritter’s January executive order creating the council. Under those, the council has until December to write the effectiveness definitions but doesn’t have to make detailed further recommendations until Sept. 30, 2011. The executive order doesn’t include a specific approval role for the state board, effectively putting the issue before the 2012 legislative session. (Executive orders, of course, don’t carry the impact of law, and Ritter will leave office in January.)

As introduced, SB 10-191 also is out of synch with deadlines contained in the Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids, the reform plan passed by the 2008 legislature.

Both the executive order and the bill require that at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations be tied to student growth. But, CAP4K calls for a change in the state testing system that measures such growth. CAP4K requires the state board to adopt a new testing system by this December, with the new system to go into effect in 2012. However, a bill just passed by the House, House Bill 10-1013, would extend those deadlines.

Of the eight members on Senate Education, one Democrat and three Republicans are cosponsors. A yes vote from one other Democrat, Bacon, Heath, Evie Hudak of Westminster or Pat Steadman of Denver, is needed to move the bill to the floor.

Heath said Tuesday he’ll support the bill if the right amendments are added. Hudak said she still has lots of concerns about the bill but feels some measure needs to be passed so she will watch the amendments closely.

CEA lobbyist Karen Wick said Tuesday she hadn’t seen all the possible amendments and that union members remain highly concerned about the bill. (Wick was interviewed before EdNews saw the amendment summary.)

She said CEA wants a clearly sequenced change in the current system. Once definitions of effectiveness are created, then a new evaluation system should be set up and tested. Only after that, Wick said, should the decision be made about how to use the evaluation system in probation, school placement and layoff decisions. (The proposed amendments would seem to move in that direction.)

Key provisions of the bill include annual teacher and principal evaluations.

The original bill also would require that tenure be earned after three consecutive years of effectiveness as determined by evaluations. Tenured teachers could be returned to probation if they don’t have good evaluations for two years. The bill also would require the mutual consent for placement of teachers in specific schools and establishes procedures for handling teachers who aren’t placed. It also specifies that evaluations can be considered when layoffs are made, in addition to seniority.

Once state standards for evaluation are in place, local school districts would be required to “meet or exceed” those standards in their evaluation systems.

Jane Urschel, chief legislative liaison for CASB, said her group is concerned about creation of a “one-size-fits-all” evaluation system that might be difficult for small districts to implement. She said Tuesday she’s working on possible amendments that would give small districts more choice in evaluation methods.

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For the record

Another charter bill introduced

A measure proposing requirements for charter school review and appeals, House Bill 10-1419, was introduced Tuesday.

It would set new provisions for school board handling of charter school applications and for State Board of Education consideration of charter appeals. The bill is meant to coordinate with another recently introduced charter measure, House Bill 10-1412.

Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, and Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, are the prime sponsors. House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, also is on the bill. He’s the prime sponsor of HB 10-1412. All the sponsors are Democrats.

Also Tuesday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 10-054, which would require minimal education services be provided to juveniles held in adult jails, and to Senate Bill 10-039, which would set up a modest job-retraining scholarship program using money taken from an existing scholarship program.

The Senate gave final approval to House Bill 10-1147, the bicycle safety bill that no longer contains a helmet requirement.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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