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When Gov. Bill Ritter signed Colorado’s teacher-evaluation framework into law in 2010, he set in motion a powerful transformation of the state’s education system. By passing Senate Bill 10-191 with bipartisan support, the state led the nation in forging a new path forward for tenure and evaluation reform.
As is the case with all revolutions, we understand it will take time to sort out the full impact. But we also know that Colorado’s law immediately wiped out an arcane and ineffective evaluation and tenure system, which has governed most of the nation’s schools for more than 50 years.
The 2010 law requires districts to reimagine their talent-management and educator-support systems by requiring annual performance evaluations, ensuring tenure is earned and not the guarantee of lifetime employment, and ending both seniority-based layoffs and the forced placement of teachers into schools where they neither want to be nor fit well. This has prompted profound change in districts and schools across the state and provides a useful model for states across the country that are also in the early phases of implementing similar policies.
From the beginning, the main objective of teacher-quality laws was to open a policy window around evaluation and tenure to promote local innovation and improve human-capital practices. In response, we are seeing tremendous examples of local ownership and buy-in, as leaders adapt and modify their evaluation systems to suit local needs.
Look no further than Durango, a small, rural district of roughly 4,700 students on Colorado’s Western Slope, for an example. It is committed to thoughtful implementation of these new talent-management practices and is one of the state’s fastest-improving school districts, with some of the state’s highest student-growth scores.
“Our evaluation system is generating far deeper conversations with teachers than we ever had before. We are evolving the role of principal from building manager to instructional leader,” Durango Superintendent Dan Snowberger recently shared with me. “This is a shift that takes time, support, and training so that we customize professional development and feedback to ensure that improvement is not only possible but likely.”
By Scott Laband
This piece originally appeared in Education Week. Read the full piece here.