Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Statement by Brenda Smith, President, American Federation of Teachers Colorado , On Proposed ‘Educator Effectiveness’ Legislation

Last week, the Colorado state Senate passed legislation that addresses the evaluation and due process systems for public school teachers. As Senate Bill 191 moves to the House this week, its sponsors have agreed to key changes that improve the legislation and will help boost the quality of education for all Colorado children.

DENVER —AFT Colorado is pleased with the new direction that SB 191 is taking to ensure that meaningful teacher evaluation systems will improve teaching and learning. With fair and comprehensive teacher evaluation systems, Colorado teachers will get the support and assistance they need and will be evaluated on various measures that will give an accurate picture of their performance.

As SB 191 was debated and passed by the Colorado Senate, AFT Colorado worked with legislators to address provisions in the bill that appeared to offer little improvement for students while raising fairness issues for teachers. This week, as the bill moved to the state House for consideration, those discussions produced an agreement with the primary sponsors of the bill to make changes in the legislation that resolve most of those issues.

Much of the attention has centered on how teachers achieve and maintain non-probationary status. The bill would make any teacher’s move from probationary status contingent on being judged effective for three consecutive years. And the legislation sets parameters for the local evaluation systems that will make that judgment. As is the case now, student academic progress would continue to be a significant—but not the sole—factor in evaluating teacher performance. After two years of ineffective ratings, a teacher could be returned to probationary status. AFT Colorado fought to maintain strong due process rights for all teachers.

Teachers don’t want ineffective teachers in their schools. Teachers should be observed and supported throughout the school year instead of perfunctory, brief observations once or twice a year. New teachers need mentors and all teachers need coaching and professional development to keep their skills fresh and updated.

With the support of SB 191 primary co-sponsors, we fully anticipate that the agreed-upon amendments will become part of the bill now before the House:

· Language clarifying that in the event of budget-driven workforce reductions, a new evaluation system and years of service would be used to determine who is laid off.

· Two classroom teachers will provide input to the principal on hiring decisions involving teachers applying to transfer between schools.

· A process to appeal an evaluation that results in a teacher being returned to probationary status. Teacher input would be included in recommendations to the district superintendent.

There remain many funding and assessment questions that we hope will be resolved before this legislation, if passed, would take full effect in 2014-15.

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