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Commentary: SB 191: An unfunded mandate that hurts

This commentary was submitted by Dena Goldberg, a National Board Certified high school social studies teacher at Lakewood High School.

SB 10-191, now known as the EQuITEE Act, is aimed at improving quality instruction. This ironic name will do little to improve quality instruction unless education funding increases dramatically.

The Center for Teaching Quality recently published recommendations for evaluating teachers. The report recommends that teacher evaluations include not only administrators but trained peer evaluators who are monitored to “ensure inter-rater reliability.” This report contains excellent ideas on evaluation reform but cannot be implemented without substantially increasing funding for training and teacher release time.

The Colorado Department of Education spends approximately $50 million a year on standardized tests, yet scores remain stagnant and achievement gaps persist. Further, independent groups have not validated efficacy. Additionally, a recent news article exposed serious problems surrounding private companies that hire poorly trained temps to grade student writing.

Cuts continue to plague districts while the state continues to spend. For example, Jeffco schools’ proposed budget cuts for the next two years include a reduction in 11 assistant principals and over 100 licensed staff positions. A large part of achieving non-probationary status is currently based on evaluation, much less in-depth than required under SB 10-191. Currently, administrators struggle to evaluate these teachers every three years, let alone every year.

SB 10-191 will not increase “EquITEE” while it continues to be an unfunded mandate. Compounded by budget and staff cuts, implementing the law is virtually impossible. Even partial implementation will increase administrators’ ability to do their jobs and also remove teachers from the classroom, thereby increasing already bulging class sizes.

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