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Teacher-Evaluation Bill Approved in Colorado

The bill is "not a message of hope and encouragement for teachers. I am so sad at the divisiveness this bill has caused in our state and legislature. I do want you to hear my heart, because my heart is speaking for 40,000 teachers in the state of Colorado."
--Representative Nancy Todd

Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver, the driving force behind the measure, evoked the Tuskegee Airmen's service in World War II as an event that changed views of race and said, "That's the moment where we stand now in education.” Saying children must no longer be judged by the disadvantages they bring to school, "What matters to us is that every child gets across the finish line.

"We will absolutely measure our success by how many of those children get across the finish line. We as adults will hold ourselves accountable."

If you can stand it, there are more comments from supporters of the bill here

The Denver Post editorial below is stupid beyond belief.

Angela Engel has posted strategies for fighting back.

By Stephanie Banchero, Wall Street Journal

Colorado lawmakers passed landmark legislation that would make it tougher for public-school teachers to earn tenure and easier for them to lose it.

The bill—one of the most aggressive state efforts to overhaul teacher-tenure rules—went to Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's desk Thursday. He has said he would sign it into law.

Under the legislation, which garnered bipartisan support, teachers would be evaluated every year and students' academic progress would count for half the instructors' overall rating. Elementary- and high-school teachers would need three consecutive years of positive evaluations to earn tenure, which guarantees them an appeals process before they can be fired.

Educators rated "ineffective" two years in a row would be stripped of tenure protection and revert to probationary status. They could earn back job protection after three straight years of satisfactory evaluations.

Currently, Colorado teachers can be fired for poor performance, but rarely are, and there is no state-mandated limit on the number of bad evaluations before dismissal. A state committee would craft details of the evaluation system, which would be put into use starting in 2014.

The bill's passage comes as lawmakers from Maryland to Washington are revamping teacher evaluation and tenure policies to compete for a piece of the $3.4 billion offered by the Obama administration's Race to the Top program. That innovation initiative aims to reward states that promote charter schools, tie teacher pay to student performance and impose plans to track student progress.

"This repositions us as a national leader in teacher evaluations and I think it puts us in the front of the race for the federal money," said Colorado state Sen. Mike Johnston, a former school principal and the bill's sponsor.

Earlier this week, New York state officials and union leaders struck a deal to tie teacher evaluations to student performance for the first time. The system will need legislative approval.

State efforts to revamp teacher-tenure rules have been divisive, and Colorado was no exception. Teachers lined up to vehemently oppose it and it drew tears and cheers from lawmakers debating it in chambers.

The Colorado Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, opposed the change, in part because it didn't explicitly define what it means to be "ineffective." The union also argued that the measure comes as teachers face larger class sizes due to coming budget cuts.

But the bill received a big boost last week when Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, endorsed it. At the AFT's urging, the bill was altered to mandate seniority be taken into account when deciding which "effective" teachers to lay off during budget cuts. The union also negotiated the addition of an appeals process before a tenured teacher is returned to probationary status.

Teacher bill will be key to reforming education
The emotional measure passed by lawmakers this week will hold teachers accountable for whether students are learning.

Editorial The Denver Post

May 14, 2010

There was so much emotion and political warfare surrounding the teacher tenure bill that legislators approved Wednesday, you might have thought the measure was going to end public education as we know it.

For better or worse, that's unlikely. But it will, for the first time, hold Colorado teachers accountable in a fair and objective way for the learning that happens in their classrooms.

The measure also puts Colorado at the vanguard of education reform nationwide. It is designed to refocus the educational mission, making great teaching and student achievement a no-excuses proposition.

Beyond policy, the tenure bill tested traditional alliances at the Capitol, as Democrats who believed in the reform found themselves at odds with a longtime ally, the powerful Colorado Education Association teachers union.

The passage of the bill, hard fought through the final hours of the session, makes the evaluations of teachers and principals dependent, in part, on the educational advancement of their students. Those who repeatedly fail to move their students academically risk losing their tenure and perhaps even their jobs.

We hope that eventually the system will be reshaped to offer additional financial rewards to those teachers who excel, particularly in difficult circumstances.

Despite hysterical assertions to the contrary, it is not meant to set up teachers as scapegoats for the sociological and economic disadvantages that their students bring to school with them.

It is not an effort to fire teachers en masse. It is an effort to recalibrate their mission in a very specific way. The foundation of this measure is the firm belief that even students who come from troubled circumstances can learn.

These are the very students that public education should not and cannot give up on. They need more educators in their corner who believe in them, and who, quite frankly, have a vested interest in their success.

The requirement for educational progress will, of course, also apply to schools and students who have a tradition of achievement. This measure means their needs cannot be overlooked either.

Every legislator who voted for this measure, particularly Democrats who resisted the full court press of the CEA, should be both proud and concerned. We say concerned because it's not over yet. Passage of the bill is but the first step. Gov. Bill Ritter must sign the bill, which he has pledged to do.

And education reformers must remain focused and watchful to ensure the creation of a detailed and fair evaluation system isn't sabotaged by opponents.

It's a multi-step process that will be carried out over the coming years by the Council for Educator Effectiveness. One of its greatest responsibilities will be to specifically define what makes an effective teacher.

With this reform, Colorado has the potential to make inroads on seemingly intractable student achievement gaps and improve education for all students.

— Stephanie Banchero & editorialist
Wall Street Journal and Denver Post




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