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State Board adopts appeals rules

The State Board of Education on Wednesday voted 7-0 to adopt rules that will govern appeals by teachers who receive two consecutive ratings of ineffective or partially effective.

Evaluation illustration

Board members spent much of the afternoon on the rules but there were no major disagreements. Most of the changes made were relatively minor tweaks to language crafted and re-crafted by Department of Education staff.

In addition to a March 30 public hearing on the proposed rules, the language was the subject of extensive discussions among CDE staff, various education interest groups and the sponsors of Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark educator effectiveness law that requires the appeals process. All that led up to the rules approved by the board.

The rules now go to the legislature for review.

Here are the key features of the new regulations:

  • All school districts are required to have an appeals process for teachers who lose non-probationary status because of two consecutive ratings of ineffective or partially effective. The rules take effect in the 2015-16 school year, the second year in which teachers will be evaluated.
  • The appeals process can be determined through collective bargaining in districts with union contracts.
  • Teacher have 15 days after receiving an evaluation to file an appeal, and the process is to be completed in 45 days. That limit can be waived by mutual agreement of the teacher and district.
  • A teacher who files an appeal has to raise all issues in the initial appeal.
  • Grounds for appeal are limited to whether the evaluator failed to follow the requirements of the evaluation system and that the failure had “a material impact” on the evaluation and to whether incorrect data was used in evaluating a teacher.
  • The superintendent or a designated administrator has the final say on appeals, and no further appeal is allowed after a decision.
  • If a superintendent rules for a teacher but finds insufficient evidence for a rating of effective, the teacher will receive a “no score” evaluation.
  • The superintendent’s decision on an appeal does not affect a district’s separate decision to terminate a teacher or continue his or her employment.

The rules also reference a state model system that districts can choose to adopt. Districts would be allowed to use the model system with a review panel or could use elements of the model system and dispense with use of panel.

Review panels have been a much-discussed issue, with the State Council for Educator Effectiveness urging their use while SB 10-191 sponsors and education reform groups were more skeptical.

The compromise reached in the final rules suggests that panels be evenly balanced between teachers and administrators and include no more than six members. The rules are clear that review panels, when used, are only advisory to a superintendent.

Despite the fact that the rules seem pretty clear about the role of panels and the authority of superintendents, the board spent a lot of time wrestling with the language of model-system section of the rules.

Read the final rules here

In addition to requiring that ineffective teachers lose non-probationary status, key features of SB 10-191 include annual evaluations and the requirement that 50 percent of evaluations be based on student academic growth. The evaluation parts of the law also apply to principals, who remain at-will employees.

Elements of the evaluation system currently are being pilot-tested in selected districts around the state.