Teacher tenure bill passes initial vote in Colorado Senate
April 30, 2010
DENVER (AP) – A proposal to hold teachers and principals accountable for the performance of their students passed its first vote in the state Senate Thursday despite worries that it doesn’t do enough to protect the rights of teachers.
A handful of Democrats joined with minority Republicans to reject attempts to give teachers greater ability to challenge bad evaluations and to allow lack of parental involvement to be factored into evaluations.
“There is no doubt that change is always hard for adults. There is no doubt that the status quo is even worse for kids,” said Sen. Michael Johnston, a Denver Democrat who has spearheaded the bill.
Under the measure (Senate Bill 191), educators would be judged, in part, by how much students have grown during the school year, not on whether they’ve reached a certain level of proficiency. Only teachers who have improved student performance for three straight years would be able to earn what effectively amounts to tenure under Colorado law. Teachers who already have job protections could lose them if their students fail to show progress for two straight years.
Principals would also be judged based on how both their students and teachers are doing. They would have to evaluate their teachers yearly, something which both supporters and opponents of the bill say most principals don’t have time to do now.
Currently, teachers can get tenure status after three years in a the classroom, and it’s difficult and costly to dismiss any teachers later found to be ineffective.
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Johnston opposed the attempt to factor parental involvement into teacher evaluations because he said the state shouldn’t lower expectations for children because of their background. He said the bill would still allow school districts to consider how often students are absent and whether they joined the class late in the year.
One proposed change would have allowed teachers to appeal a bad evaluation to an independent, third party with the teacher and school district splitting the cost. Johnston said that would discourage administrators from issuing negative evaluations to avoid the cost and hassle.
However, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said the major change to education law would only work if teachers see it as a fair one and buy into the proposed changes. He didn’t think the bill went far enough but said he would back it anyway because a governor-appointed council would have three years to work on the details.