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Dougco union requests state review of teacher evaluation system

In a first for Colorado, the Douglas County teachers’ union is asking the state to take a close look at the district’s teacher evaluation system, according to a request submitted Monday.

The Douglas County Federation submitted a formal request to the state Department of Education to review and potentially challenge Douglas County Schools’s educator evaluation system. It’s the first request to come out of a 2013 law that requires the state to set up a system to hear complaints about districts’ evaluation procedures.

Critics say the rollout of the Dougco teacher evaluation system has been flawed and the way it ties evaluations to teacher pay is unreliable. The union has promised to challenge the district over it since last fall.

The union’s formal request cites a pair of reports on the evaluation system, one commissioned by district in 2012, the other by the union this year. Both reports came from Teaching Learning Solutions, an organization brought in to train administrators on the evaluation system and review its effectiveness.

Both highlight a number of concerns identified in 2012 and again this year, including:

  • Inconsistent and confusing rubrics — the rubrics underwent multiple revisions during the training process and a new set of rubrics was implemented in the middle of the 2012-13 school year.
  • High levels of variation between evaluators — the initial report from 2012 found large differences in how evaluators scored teachers, in part due to confusion about the rubrics.
  • Insufficient training for district administrators — Teaching Learning Solutions said their 2012 recommendation to have ongoing training and yearly calibrations has not been followed.

Union officials also said district officials failed to respond to repeated requests to meet with them to review the system. A union spokeswoman, Courtney Smith, said district officials only responded after the union contacted state officials.

But Kevin Larsen, president of the Dougco school board, called the request for review “another attempt to stir controversy and chaos where there is none.”

He said the union had failed to provide any kind of feedback for two years. District officials also said the 2014 report does not take into account more recent revisions to the system and that there was an official appeals process for the evaluation system that individual teachers can use

State education officials must signal within 10 business days whether they intend to pursue the review. If they conclude the evaluation system is not in compliance with state law, they can request that the district comply and hold teachers harmless, which could temporarily removing the link between pay and evaluations.

The union’s press release is available here.

Note: this article has been updated for clarification.