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Voices: Rubber hits road on SB-191

Colorado Education Association President Kerrie Dallman says teachers remain concerned about implementation of Senate Bill 191, the so-called educator effectiveness law.

Research consistently shows effective teaching is the single most important factor in school that advances student learning. Yet in some Colorado school districts, teacher evaluations have not provided the necessary feedback for educators to improve their practice and increase their effectiveness.

This is changing.

In 2010, the Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 191, a groundbreaking law that intends to improve student learning by increasing teaching effectiveness in the classroom. During this school year, our members are learning the ropes of the state model evaluation system in a pilot project across 27 school districts. They are providing feedback that will define how the system rolls out across the state, just as principals did in last year’s pilot.

Soon after the law’s passage, the Colorado Education Association engaged the education community in our state to help build a model educator evaluation system under this law, despite our objections to some of its provisions. We were pleased to develop a shared understanding with our partners that teacher participation in the law’s implementation is essential. The law will not accomplish its goals to promote student learning and achievement absent the teachers’ voice.

The respect Coloradans have for teachers gives CEA a proactive leadership role in creating a fair evaluation system that uses multiple measures of student learning, improves teachers’ practice through meaningful feedback and leads to more opportunity for student growth.

We have made significant contributions, including:

  • Serving more than 500 man hours on the State Council on Educator Effectiveness, where I was honored to work with other teachers, administrators and education leaders in drafting the 2012 rubric for evaluating Colorado teachers.
  • Attending nearly 150 hours of meetings with many stakeholders, from community groups to school districts, to discuss smooth implementation of the system.
  • Conducting more than 60 training sessions with thousands of teachers, principals, administrators and school board members for a deeper understanding of the new state model evaluation system.

Our most ambitious venture was to co-host a two-day “191 Summit” last March with the Colorado Association of School Executives and the Colorado Association of School Boards. More than 500 teachers, administrators and school board members representing 95 districts teamed up to assess their readiness and create action plans.

More often, we lead behind the scenes on technical issues, such as when some of our most accomplished members volunteered to help the Colorado Department of Education select teacher videos that will one day train evaluators to recognize qualities of great teaching. Whether in big-picture ideas or fine details, teacher insights have proven invaluable in designing an evaluation system targeted to improved instruction.

Concerns remain about rollout of 191

While CEA is working hard to implement SB-191, our strong objections to parts of the law that caused us to oppose the bill are still unresolved. Some adjustments are needed in the legislature to ensure the law will be implemented as intended.

Those include:

  • Clearly defining terms and ensuring the law is consistent in its use of terminology to avoid needless conflict between administrators and educators.
  • Crafting comprehensive evaluations for the majority of educators who don’t teach subjects within the state’s standardized tests.
  • Guarding against unfair use of the law to remove well-performing teachers for reasons outside student instruction, or to systematically remove experienced teachers to cut costs.

Teachers want meaningful evaluations to improve their practice because they desire a deeper understanding of the subjects they teach and they want to learn innovative strategies for instruction and assessment. Comprehensive evaluations will help teachers identify and put into practice the knowledge and skills associated with effective teaching.

The great potential of Senate Bill 191 to improve quality teaching and student learning is exciting for the teaching profession in Colorado, which is why CEA is so focused on the successful introduction of these evaluations into our classrooms. We are showing our teachers how to own their evaluations and share their successes with fellow professionals.

We are also encouraging everyone in Colorado public education to work together for the best statewide evaluation system we can make for our teachers and our students. By sharing leadership, responsibility and accountability on this issue, we can provide the world-class education every Colorado child deserves from all of us.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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