Colorado, New York strike historic deals on teacher evaluations

Colorado signed several reforms into law today that will redesign how teachers are evaluated and awarded tenure. Colorado is just one of several states looking at ways to change how teachers are evaluated as pressure grows from frustrated parents and federal funding programs like Race to the Top require more emphasis to be placed on teacher performance in order to get much needed funding.

In 2010, Colorado passed a bill that established a new education panel that would examine existing evaluation standards and create new ones more focused on performance. The bill was considered controversial at the time, but their resulting recommendations have been met with broad approval. The bill signed into law this morning by Governor Hickenlooper reflects the work of the panel that has been approved by the state board of education so far.

Under the new standards, student test scores will account for 50% of teacher evaluations. Additionally, teachers that have been deemed ineffective over two separate evaluations will not be eligible for tenure or can lose tenure if they already have it.

The law is also expected to force a shift in how the state handles standardized testing. According to the Denver Post more than 70% of teachers do not have a standardized test for their grade level but the state is working on developing suitable assessments. School districts in the state have until 2015 to implement all of the new requirements.

As CivSource previously reported, several states are grappling with out to make changes to teacher evaluations to make them more performance focused. However, the efforts are not without controversy. Teachers unions have continually raised objections to a performance focused model claiming that more qualitative factors tell the story of an individual teacher’s capability.

In order to get federal funds under Race to the Top, states are required to perform annual teacher evaluations and submit performance data to the US Department of Education. Movements are also going forward in some state court systems to make this performance data available to the public, creating new challenges for school districts as they are caught between employee privacy and the public’s right to know.

This morning, New York City and the United Federation of Teachers struck an historic deal on teacher evaluations in order to make the city eligible for Race to the Top funds. The union opposed a new ratings system proposed by the city that would make teacher evaluations public, saying that teachers had a right to privacy and that the ratings system lacked a sufficient appeals process.

New York’s Governor Cuomo also announced a separate deal with teachers unions statewide over a new ratings system that will govern all other districts and make the state eligible for federal funds.