Colorado House panel backs teacher tenure bill
DENVER (AP) – A proposal that would change the way teachers earn and keep job protections passed its first test in the House early Friday despite vehement objections from teachers-turned-lawmakers.
The House Education Committee voted 7-6 to endorse the bill after a 10-hour hearing.
Under the legislation, teachers would be evaluated each year with at least half their rating based on whether their students have improved during the school year. Teachers would earn the equivalent of tenure status if they’ve increased student performance for three straight years. Teachers who already have tenure would lose it if their students don’t show progress for two straight years.
Currently, teachers can get what is technically called non-probationary status under Colorado’s law after three years in the classroom which entitles them to a hearing to appeal dismissals.
Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, a former teacher, said the bill scapegoated teachers for all the problems of public education and did nothing to help improve their effectiveness. Rep. Mike Merrifield, a former music teacher, said the bill was based on the faulty premise that there are many bad teachers who are hurting students. He said penalizing teachers wouldn’t do anything to improve schools.
“I can’t support a bill that I think is an insult to my profession,” Merrifield said.
Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Silverthorne, said she thought the changes in the evaluation system would give the teaching profession more credibility and help students.
“I believe it’s what we need to do. I believe it will make the difference with our kids,” she said.
The proposal comes as school districts around the state are preparing to lay off hundreds of teachers and other support staff which critics say will make it harder for teachers to help students.
The bill must next pass muster with another committee that reviews state spending before it can be voted on by the full House. It’s already passed the Senate.
Lawmakers must adjourn by Wednesday but Scalan believes there is enough time to pass the bill before then.
The bill requires that at least half of evaluations would have to be based on how much students have improved during the school year. Students wouldn’t be required to meet a certain level of proficiency.
Under the bill, student growth couldn’t just be measured based on the state’s standardized testing program. That means the state has to come up with new assessments to measure student growth – including ones for subjects not covered by the current Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.
The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, says developing the assessments could cost millions of dollars. Backers of the bill say the state has already committed to developing new tests regardless of whether the bill passes.
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