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School Districts “Eager” to Help in Educator Effectiveness Pilot, Questions Linger

Ed News Colorado reports today that school districts are eager to participate in the pilot for the state’s new educator effectiveness law:

Nearly a quarter of Colorado school districts have applied to participate in field-testing of new principal and teacher evaluation methods.

It was “a surprise and an encouraging message” that the Department of Education received 41 applications, said Diana Sirko, deputy commissioner. “We look at is as very encouraging.” She said CDE had expected a couple of dozen applications at the most.

According to the Denver Post, another CDE official indicated realistic hopes were for only about 10 positive responses from Colorado’s 178 school districts. Talk about the second local major education reform program of the year in which participation has exceeded all expectations. The more than 30 private schools that applied to be partners in Douglas County’s groundbreaking local voucher program (19 have been approved, as of this date) inundated staff who planned for about half the response.

All in all, it appears to be a positive sign that a large number, and wide variety of (rural, suburban, urban), Colorado school districts want to be a part of piloting the educator effectiveness law, which garnered national attention last year as SB 191. You know, the bill that ties teacher and principal evaluations — and ultimately job status — more closely to measured student growth. A lot of thought has gone into the process of making the law a reality across the Centennial State, and those who have worked on the implementation deserve some commendation.

Not that there isn’t room for some healthy skepticism about the implementation. After all, the last line of the Post story raises some eyebrows:

Statewide implementation of the system will be required by the fall of 2013, though tying the evaluations to probationary status and tenure will not go into effect statewide until 2016.

Amy Spicer from Stand for Children Colorado assures readers that the rulemaking development is positive, though she has a somewhat different (and more reliable) take on what the rule actually is:

During the 2013-2014 school year, the evaluation system will go statewide. Those ratings will only count for probationary teachers and will go toward earning non-probationary status. During the 2014-2015 school year, ratings will start to count for all teachers—both for earning and losing status.

Sounds better. But the law — Colorado Revised Statutes 22-9-105.5(10)(IV)(B) states:

During the 2013-14 school year, teachers shall be evaluated based on quality standards. Demonstrated effectiveness or ineffectiveness shall begin to be considered in the acquisition of probationary or nonprobationary status.

My Education Policy Center friends read that to mean that the evaluation ratings earned will have an impact on all teachers’ probationary or non-probationary status in 2013-14. If I am missing something, please let me know. Maybe this is a question for the Educator Effectiveness crew at CDE. Just want to make sure everything is done right, and done to help students. Wish the whole process were simpler, but sometimes that’s the way it is.