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Districts eager for SB 191 pilot

Nearly a quarter of Colorado school districts have applied to participate in field-testing of new principal and teacher evaluation methods.

Evaluation illustration

It was “a surprise and an encouraging message” that the Department of Education received 41 applications, said Diana Sirko, deputy commissioner. “We look at this as very encouraging.” She said CDE had expected a couple of dozen applications at the most.

The applicants range from the Jefferson County Schools, the state’s largest with 85,000 students, to the 120-student Mountain Valley district in the San Luis Valley.

Other large districts on the list include Academy, Adams 12-Five Star, Boulder Valley, Brighton, Douglas County, Falcon, Poudre, St. Vrain Valley and Thompson.

About 39 percent of the applications came from rural districts, 30 percent from suburban areas, 22 percent from mountain districts and 9 percent from urban districts, based on the descriptions checked by districts on their applications. A group of nine southwestern Colorado districts applied together under the umbrella of the San Juan BOCES.

Pilot applicants

  • Academy
  • Adams 12-Five Star
  • Aspen
  • Boulder Valley
  • Brighton (partner)
  • Center
  • Charter School Institute (GOAL Academy, Pinnacle and Stone Creek Charter)
  • Crowley County
  • Custer County
  • Del Norte
  • Douglas County (partner)
  • Eagle County (partner)
  • Elbert
  • Falcon
  • Harrison (partner)
  • Jefferson County
  • Keenesburg
  • Kiowa County
  • Platte Canyon
  • Miami-Yoder
  • Moffat County
  • Mountain Valley
  • Poudre
  • Rocky Ford
  • St. Vrain Valley
  • Salida
  • San Juan BOCES (represents Bayfield, Dolores, Dove Creek, Durango, Ignacio, Mancos, Montezuma-Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Silverton)
  • South Routt
  • Telluride
  • Thompson
  • Trinidad
  • Valley
  • Wray

Read applications (101-page PDF). Document doesn’t include all applications from San Juan BOCES group.

While districts have a variety of evaluation systems in place, Senate Bill 10-191 changed the rules by requiring that at least 50 percent of principal and teacher evaluations be based on academic growth of students. The bill also requires annual evaluations and a tiered rating system for educators, and it specifies that teachers can be returned to probation if their evaluations are subpar.

The bill was the focus of intense controversy and negotiation during the 2010 legislative session, and a key provision of the final version was that new forms of evaluation would be pilot tested in selected districts before fully going into effect in 2016. The first phase of pilot testing starts this fall. (See this CDE chart for details of the pilot process.)

Districts will be chosen in three areas. Six to eight districts will be selected for the main pilot process. Another four to six districts will be selected as “partners” that will compare their existing evaluation systems against elements of the proposed state system in an effort to enhance the model state system with local experience.

Brighton, Douglas County, Eagle and Harrison, all of which have experience with evaluation systems, have applied to be partner districts. CDE is still accepting applications for this category.

And a third group of districts, also about four to six, will be selected for a broader program intended to help them implement not only new evaluation methods but also the new state content standards and the upcoming new state testing system. Lessons learned from this project are to be shared statewide. (See previous article about this program.)

Pilot district applicants will be notified if they’ve been selected by Aug. 10.

The pilot projects are just one part of the SB 10-191 implementation process. CDE staff members have prepared draft regulations for implementation of the law. The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on final rules in November, and the legislature will have until February to review those rules. (Information about rule making, including links to drafts and timetables.)

A key decision that remains to be made is the amount of flexibility districts will have in customizing evaluation systems. (See this article for background.)

Also, CDE is working on a model evaluation system, and the State Council for Educator Effectiveness still has to recommend an appeals process for teachers who revert to probationary status because of low evaluations.

See CDE’s educator effectiveness page for more information.

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