Examining Educator Evaluation from a Teacher’s Point of View

It has been ten years since the implementation of Senate Bill 191, Colorado’s Teacher Evaluation System. Based on input from teachers across the state, it is clear adjustments need to be made to this legislation/policy. In the summer and fall of 2019, teachers, advocates, and state leaders convened to develop/brainstorm/suggest changes to teacher evaluation. Importantly, we learned that teachers: 

  • Want a process that addresses their development as a practitioner as much as it evaluates them.
  • Want better training for evaluators and rubrics that are tailored to teachers’ specific content areas.
  • Want to make sure teachers rated “highly effective” are recognized in some way.
  • Realize that there is a great deal of flexibility in how districts implement the evaluation process, and they want their districts to take advantage of this flexibility to create innovative evaluation systems.
  • Believe that some student data should be used in a teacher’s evaluation, and recommended 30%of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on multiple measures of student achievement data.

Currently, there are three pieces of legislation related to teacher evaluation making their way through the Colorado Legislature. Two of these bills attempt to completely gut or severely undermine teacher evaluation by removing student growth data and allowing for any potential disruption to learning (no matter the size or scope) to pause or remove essential evaluation elements.

The third bill responds to teachers’ feedback on evaluation and updates this process accordingly. Specifically, SB22-070: 

  • Increases financial support for districts to provide free training to all evaluators. Additionally, schools will be required to have multiple evaluators to ensure educators can request a different evaluator if needed.
  • Aligns evaluations with professional development as well as opportunities for additional certification or differentiated roles. 
  • Includes innovations in observations by requiring the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to provide guidance on best practices and encourages schools to experiment with alternative observation methods.
  • Decreases the requirement that an educator’s evaluation be based on 50% student growth to no less than 30%.
  • Limits local collective data measures to the school building – not district – level and require that collective measures may not exceed 10% of an educator’s evaluation. Remove the requirement that new educators must be evaluated based on collective measures.
  • Requires CDE to assist in differentiation for educators that have been rated highly effective for at least three consecutive years by providing a pared down rubric, coupled with a professional growth approach as part of an annual evaluation for those teachers who are consistently rated highly effective.
  • Provide funding for CDE to design, develop, and integrate model evaluation rubrics for particular positions.

All these recommendations adhere to evidence-based best practices and are modeled after successful teacher evaluation systems across the country. The bill also directly responds to the year-long teacher feedback work in 2019.   

The changes proposed in SB22-070 will not make the teacher evaluation system perfect. But they do address the disconnect between best practices for performance management systems and implementation of performance management systems. SB22-070 reflects the action research completed by teachers who envision a system that will work to improve their practice and ensure all of Colorado’s students reach their potential.

Mark Sass is a high school teacher at Legacy High School, and the Executive Director of Teach Plus Colorado.