Colorado’s Bill 191 Law on Teacher Evaluations Sparks Debate

Colorado teachers are unhappy with the new evaluation standard soon to be introduced throughout the state, InTheseTimes.com reports. A new law, passed last spring, called “The Great Teachers and Leaders Law,” would not only overhaul the teacher tenure system, but would also introduce a new evaluation program where student achievement will count for half of a teacher’s final score.

Although both teachers and administrators believe that some changes to the teacher evaluations were needed, especially since the old system wasn’t good at identifying areas that needed improvement, they say that the provisions laid down by the new law go too far.

When the new law, also known as Bill 191, goes into effect, half of the teacher’s performance will be based on their students’ test scores, and the other half will come from supervisor reviews. According to the Denver Post, the new evaluations will also play a part in the revised tenure system, making it easier for poorly rated teachers to lose their job protection.

The supporters of the new system say that such drastic changes are long overdue, in light of the fact that, evaluated by the previous standard, only 32 teachers were deemed unsatisfactory over a three-year period. Kathleen Boyd, who testified in front of the lawmakers during the debate over Bill 191, said quality of education in Colorado, and specifically Denver, are never going to improve until a way is found to remove tired, burnt-out, and ineffective teachers.

“I don’t need a law that guarantees me a job, and other teachers don’t either,” the new teacher said, a room full of teachers behind her, some of them shaking their heads during her testimony to the Senate Education Committee. “I can take care of that on my own.”

The aspect of the bill that drew the most opposition, was the retooling of the system that grants teachers tenure. Currently, any teacher who completes three years of teaching satisfactorily will be granted tenure, but the law seeks to change the qualification for tenure to three years of teaching “effectively,” although the meaning of effectiveness hasn’t yet been defined. On the flip side, if a tenured teacher is found to be “ineffective” over two years, he or she will lose tenure and may be fired at will after a one-year probationary period.

Although lawmakers agree that the new bill will go far towards making sure students are surrounded by dedicated teachers and skilled administrators, and this will inevitably lead to increased academic achievement, opponents urge caution. Basing such big part of teacher rating on standardized test scores doesn’t create an ideal learning environment, instead committing all the teachers who want to keep their jobs to teaching nothing but the test.