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State teachers happy – on average

Some 84 percent of Colorado educators who responded to the latest TELL survey feel their schools are good places to work and learn.

That’s up from 73 percent in 2009, when the first Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning Colorado Survey was conducted pursuant to legislation passed in 2008.

The number of participants also increased, to almost 30,000 or 47 percent, up 11 percent from 2009.

The results were presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education, which had a busy day, formally choosing Robert Hammond as commissioner, approving three Denver Public Schools’ innovation applications and taking its first steps into the long process of writing regulations to implement the educator effectiveness law.

Regarding the TELL survey, consultant Eric Hirsch of the New Teacher Center told the board that much important data lies beneath the statewide averages. He noted that participation varied widely among districts, many schools showed a decline in positive attitudes since 2009, teachers continue to be concerned about lack of time for planning, and that teachers and principals often have very different views of the same things.

The value of the survey is “not about general trends” but in leaders being able to look at results for individual schools and districts and take action to help improve conditions.

Results are broken out for individual schools if participation exceeds about 50 percent and for districts if participation is higher than 40 percent. You can find out more about the survey and look at schools and district results here. Go here for summaries of the research.

Hammond formally named

The first order of important business for the board was voting to hire Robert Hammond as commissioner of education. Hammond, a former deputy commissioner, was named sole finalist a couple of weeks ago but he formally got the top job Wednesday on a 7-0 vote.

Board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said, “There is no one … who has a deeper grasp and understanding of where Colorado is” on education reform than Hammond and that board “easily came to the conclusion that Robert Hammond is the best leader.”

Referring to his predecessor, Hammond told the board, “I intend to turn the Dwight Jones spark into a steady flame” to improve Colorado student achievement.

Hammond will be paid $235,000 a year.

DPS innovation plans not controversial for SBE

The board also voted 7-0 to grant innovation status to three schools involved in the reorganization of education offerings in Far Northeast Denver.

The three schools are the Noel Community Arts School, the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello.

The issue has been divisive within the Denver public schools, and the local school board split 4-3 in vote on the issue last week. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association has opposed the innovation designations, arguing that because the innovation law requires sign off by current teachers, it can’t be used here because new staffs are being hired at the three schools.

In recommending the state board approve the applications, CDE Associate Commissioner Rich Wenning urged members to take “an expansive view of the statute” regarding staff approval, given that the three are new schools.

Innovation designation gives a school exemption from a variety of state and district regulations, including provisions of union contracts. See this story for background on the Denver issue.

Personnel note: Wenning, who has been at the center of several major CDE initiatives in recent years, especially implementation of the Colorado Growth Model and the new accountability system, is leaving the department to be a consultant. Wenning also has been a familiar figure at the Capitol as part of the department’s lobbying team.

Now the real work starts

The board will devote three hours Thursday morning to hearing testimony about and discussing regulations needed to implement the states 2010 educator effectiveness law.

Members got a staff briefing Wednesday afternoon about the timetable for the project and the outline for the rules.

“This is so huge, it really is,” said Vice Chair Marcia Neal, R-3rd District.