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Effectiveness council still getting organized

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness is considering ramping up its meeting schedule to handle the work assigned it by the state’s groundbreaking new educator evaluation law.

The council held its fifth meeting Wednesday, but the panel is still struggling with organizational issues.

Evaluation illustration

Members did agree to an “initial draft” of a teacher effectiveness definition and began discussion of more-detailed quality standards for teachers.

And, education Commissioner Dwight Jones dropped by to give the group a brief pep talk.

“Thank you for doing this important work,” Jones said. “I sure plan to get more engaged … just to listen and offer any support where you think it might be helpful.”

Jones noted that the council’s duties expanded when Senate Bill 10-191 was passed after the council was created. He encouraged members to challenge their “core beliefs” as they do their work.

“The governor’s very interested in what ultimately is going to come out of this council,” Jones also said. (Gov. Bill Ritter, who originally created the council and appointed its members, will be out of office by the time the group makes its recommendations to the State Board of Education next March.)

A significant part of the discussion Wednesday focused on organizational issues.

Members recently filled out a survey about the council’s work, and co-chair Matt Smith noted the survey found “a frustration that the council’s work wasn’t moving as rapidly as some would like.” Smith is an executive with United Launch Alliance.

Smith also noted members have varying opinions about how much of the group’s work should be done by the whole council and how much should be done in small groups.

“I’m not sure the meeting structure we have … is going to get us where we want to go,” said Tracy Dorland, director of teacher effectiveness for the Denver Public Schools.

The group discussed whether to meet more often than once a month and whether to hold a multi-day meeting in the fall.

“The more time we spend in one shot, the more we’re going to get accomplished,” said Margaret Crespo, principal of John Evans Middle School in Weld County.

Smith finally suggested having small groups do preparatory work for full-group sessions, meeting twice in September and twice in October and holding a retreat sometime in the fall. The details are to put in writing and circulated among members for approval.

Nine of the council’s 15 members attended the monthly session. One of the council’s four teacher members was present, and the council’s two school board members and one superintendent were absent. (Council members were appointed from various segments of the education community.)

The council also spent considerable time discussing an initial definition of teacher effectiveness, with members going back and forth on elements that should be included and the level of detail a definition should include.

As a starting point, members finally settled on five core elements used by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Those are:

  • Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  • Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  • Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  • Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  • Teachers are members of learning communities.

Under the requirements of SB 10-191, the council has until March 1 to make recommendations to SBE on definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness, different levels of effectiveness, permitted differentiation of evaluations, testing and implementation of new evaluation systems, appeals processes, parent involvement and on costs of the new system.

The council is being advised by a 22-member volunteer Technical Advisory Group, which reviews education research and prepares documents for the council. Co-chair Nina Lopez, a CDE executive, noted Wednesday that the exact details of the working relationship between the two groups still are being ironed out.

The state board will have until Sept. 1, 2011, to adopt regulations and also is allowed to make decisions on any issues on which the council doesn’t act. And those SBE regulations will be subject to legislative review.

If the whole process plays out as planned, the law won’t be fully implemented until the 2014-14 school year (detailed background on SB 10-191).

Council webpage with minutes, current meeting schedule and full list of minutes