April 11: State Board to consider SB 191 teacher evaluation appeals process

Tomorrow the State Board of Education will vote on the appeals process in Senate Bill 191, the teacher-principal evaluation system. The board’s vote is part of the rulemaking process on education legislation. After the State Board’s vote, the new rule goes to the Legislature where the House and Senate will vote on it.

The new law provides for a system to evaluate the effectiveness of licensed teachers and principals. In the past, state law required districts to rate educators as satisfactory or not satisfactory. When the law is fully implemented, principals’ evaluations will put teachers in one of four categories (highly effective, effective, partially effective, ineffective), and a teacher’s nonprobationary status will be based on effectiveness in the classroom.

Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, each district shall ensure that a non-probationary teacher who objects to a second consecutive Ineffective or Partially Effective rating has the opportunity to appeal because, at this point, the teacher is at risk of losing non-probationary status.

President Beverly Ingle’s CEA Journal column (April-May 2012 issue) outlines the district-level appeals panels our Association believes are critical.

Honor the State Council’s work on appeals process by adopting its recommendations
Our Association has supported the work of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness (SCEE) since the council convened in 2010 in connection with Senate Bill 191, the teacher and principal evaluation law. Three CEA members have served on the council for many months on behalf of all Colorado public school teachers: Amie Baca-Oehlert, District Twelve EA; Kerrie Dallman, Jefferson County EA; and Jim Smyth, Mesa Valley EA.

Now the State Board of Education is developing rules for an appeals process that will be part of the new evaluation system. In the last few months, SCEE – not only teachers, also school board members, principals, a parent, a businessman, a university professor, others – crafted well researched, thoughtful recommendations for the process for a teacher to appeal a second consecutive rating of Partially Effective or Ineffective in the new evaluation system.

From my perspective as a classroom teacher, the council’s recommendations are an impressive example of how a large group of people with different interests and expertise can come together and reach consensus for the benefit of our students.

We fully support SCEE’s recommendations for the appeals process. The State Board is considering them and other groups’ ideas from March 30-April 11. CEA has urged the State Board to defer to the council’s recommendations and adopt them. Here’s why:

  • The premise guiding the council’s work is that educators need a fair, credible evaluation system if they are to be effective educators. To make sure that the evaluation system being developed under SB 191 is fair and credible, we believe we need an appeals panel that has an equal number of teachers and administrators on it. This appeals panel would promote shared leadership among teachers and principals and give a teacher an evenhanded opportunity to present information to show that the rating should have instead been “effective.”
  • A teacher who appeals an ineffective or partially effective evaluation rating must be able to put his or her trust in the evaluation process and the appeals process. The teacher must know that the data and evidence the evaluator used to determine the rating was accurate data and the evaluation process was followed.

We do not believe that school districts should use any appeals process other than a panel of equal numbers of teachers and administrators. For example, a superintendent or other district official should not hear a teacher’s appeal and decide whether he or she deserves the ineffective rating.

We expect that the system the council designed and recommended to the State Board may need some adjustment as we travel through the uncharted waters of a new evaluation system, first with the pilot districts and later in statewide implementation.

We are in complete agreement that the Council’s recommended appeals process will meet the needs of our students, teachers, and school districts. We urge the State Board of Education to honor the council’s work and adopt the council’s recommendations on April 11.

For a teacher, the appeals process is an assurance that an impartial panel of one’s peers and administrators thoughtfully reviewed the teacher’s evidence to determine if it warrants a decision to uphold the evaluation rating.

For teachers, the appeals process is an affirmation that Colorado’s teacher evaluation system is thorough and rigorous. The appeals process is a means of demonstrating that we own our profession. We are helping shape our profession, we care for its well being, and we are responsible for its successes or failures.

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