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Commentary: Teachers key to implementation

This commentary was submitted by Jessica Keigan, who has taught English for nine years at Horizon High School and is currently serving  with the Denver New Millennium Initiative, a project of the Center for Teaching Quality.

The Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness Act, or Senate Bill 10-191, is an ongoing topic of conversation among educators and policymakers in Colorado. While some may still be questioning if this system will work, more important conversations have begun to circulate around how this system will work.

So what needs to be considered for the implementation process?

The single most important factor for moving forward is supporting teachers in implementation by including them in the decision-making conversations.

It is essential to continually include the classroom perspective. Systemic change is cumbersome and messy. Our focus needs to be on the reason we began the process in the first place — increased student success.

Those who would paint teachers as naysayers and contrarians rarely see the benefit in letting teachers speak about, let alone help shape, the complex support structures that should be created when implementing any new system.

Teachers need to take initiative to make sure the rules and processes set forth by Senate Bill 10-191 are functional by speaking candidly about the supports they need to improve their practice and effectiveness. A teacher myself, I am always amazed at the creative and innovative practices I see in my peers.

Teachers have to have these characteristics to meet the diverse needs of the dozens of students they work with each day. Because of this, they are uniquely prepared to offer solutions to make the system of evaluation and accountability work for all who are impacted by it.

Most recently, I have worked with a group of teachers from across the Denver metro area seeking to improve not only their classroom effectiveness but the education profession as a whole. The Denver New Millennium Initiative brings together 75 educators who participate in dialogue and research to provide policymakers and administrators who are not in the classroom each day to hear from those who are.

Together, we look at what is happening locally, both in our districts and state, and what is happening nationally to seek the best ideas for solutions to the many struggles confronting our profession so that we can provide recommendations to policymakers based on our research and grounded in our classroom experience.

The most exciting aspect of our work is that policymakers have been listening. Members of our team presented specific ideas to the State Board of Education this fall about how the multiple measures of professional effectiveness should be evaluated. Our recommendations were well received … even reflected in the revised rules.

This is only the beginning, though. As the state moves to implement the new evaluation system, more teachers need to be actively involved by:

  • Being informed — Take the initiative to understand what is happening and the logic behind the decisions that are being made. Read every day! Education News Colorado, EdWeek, TransformED are all great places to start.
  • Being involved — Seek opportunities or join with others to engage in the policymaking process. Join groups (The Denver NMI is currently accepting applications!), read the State Board’s minutes, talk to the teachers next door — don’t be isolated – so you can benefit from others’ perspectives!

My plea is not just to teachers, though. I also hope that the business community, parents, administrators, policymakers and students will engage in the process and join teachers in looking carefully at what effective practice looks like so that it can be celebrated and shared by all.

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.