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DPS board backs educator effectiveness bill

Denver school board members split 4-3 Thursday in support of Senate Bill 10-191, with those in favor calling it “a game-changer” for public education.

The board also split 4-3 in support of Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s plan to limit the placement of teachers unable to find jobs in the city’s lowest-performing and highest-poverty schools.

The splits came along by-now familiar lines, with board members Nate Easley, Bruce Hoyt, Mary Seawell and Theresa Peña, who introduced both resolutions, in favor and board members Arturo Jimenez, Jeannie Kaplan and Andrea Merida opposed.

In both cases, the three opponents sought to delay votes on the resolutions but those attempts were vetoed by the other four.

‘Sense of urgency’

“Where I get a sense of urgency is almost half of our kids are not graduating and those who are graduating – too many of them require remediation,” Easley said in support of Senate Bill 191, also known as the educator effectiveness bill.

The bill would overhaul how teachers and principals are evaluated across Colorado, requiring at least half of their evaluations be based on student academic growth.

“This board has an opportunity to weigh in on whether or not a teacher’s effectiveness should be tied to a student’s growth,” Easley said. “I do agree a teacher’s effectiveness, part of that should be whether or not their students are growing.”

Kaplan argued the board should wait until the bill, still working its way through the General Assembly, is finalized. And Jimenez and Merida issued a statement declaring the bill bad for DPS and urging changes such as basing only 25 percent of evaluations on student growth.

But Seawell, who called the bill a “game-changer” for public education, pointed out the board has voted for other bills before they were final, such as supporting tuition equity.

“We have a chance to impact this,” she said. “There are a lot of things I wish we could impact but we can’t … I really urge my colleagues, all of us, to support this.”

Hoyt, likewise, said he did not want to wait to show support for the bill.

“It’s time to improve how we measure principal and teacher effectiveness,” he said. “I think it will introduce a measure of expectation and accountability around student achievement, which after all is our core mission here.”

Changing direct placement

The educator effectiveness bill also would change the system of direct placement, where veteran teachers unable to find jobs on their own are placed in schools with vacancies.

Those placements may occur whether or not the teacher and principal think it’s a good fit because, under current law, teachers with three years of experience are guaranteed jobs.

In Denver, those teachers have been disproportionately placed in the district’s poorest schools, a practice that Boasberg began to limit earlier this year. He prefers hiring by “mutual consent” of principal and teacher.

His decision brought support from community members but also vocal opposition from Merida. She introduced, but then withdrew, a resolution to delay the change until a new evaluation system was in place.

Pena then brought forward a resolution in support of Boasberg’s plan.

Thursday, Boasberg said DPS has 80 veteran teachers unable to find positions. Some in that group have been offered a year’s pay as an early retirement incentive and have until May 1 to decide.

“What do we know about teachers in the direct-placement pool?” Merida asked. “Are they there for disciplinary or inefficiency reasons?”

Boasberg said teachers wind up in the pool because of enrollment declines, program changes or school closures.

But are they bad teachers, Merida insisted, yes or no? Boasberg said personnel committees within each school decide who is let go and he couldn’t comment on specifics.

“This is not about individuals,” he said. “This is about the extraordinarily important aspect of mutual consent.”

Under Senate Bill 191, veteran teachers unable to find positions would receive 18 months of pay while they look for jobs. If it doesn’t pass, those teachers in DPS would continue to be paid though Boasberg said they would never be paid for doing nothing.

Click here to read EdNews’ coverage of the direct-placement issue. And here to read EdNews’ coverage of the educator effectiveness bill.

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