Colorado’s Teacher Effectiveness Tool

In my group this week, we agreed to peruse the Eduwonk blog, which is a lot like our blog because a) multiple people blog on it, and b) it’s all about education! Anyway, second blog down summarized many different articles, so I started clicking and skimming to find something of interest. Then I found this article that was published in the New York Times yesterday and was excited to see this picture:

Yay Colorado! I like when our state is in the news and nothing’s on fire and nobody’s deceased. Plus doesn’t that guy look so happy?

This article talks about the state-imposed Teacher Effectiveness Tool, which will come into effect in the 2014-15 school year. Combined with standardized test scores and classroom observations, teachers will be evaluated with this 24 page rubric, which is a checklist on such broad ideas as “motivates students to make connections to prior learning” and “provides instruction that is developmentally appropriate for all students.” The NYT was kind enough to attach a link to the rubric, which can be viewed here. ‘Cause I know how much our class loves rubrics.

This evaluation tool, and others like it, came about due to pressure from the Race to the Top program and the No Child Left Behind law – funding from Race and waivers from NCLB – and within the last three years, 36 states and the District of Columbia have implemented new teacher evaluation policies. Teachers are graded on a scale of “effectiveness”: highly effective, effective, partially effective, or an ineffective. Anyone who receives an average “ineffective” or “partially ineffective” rating for two consecutive years will lose their tenure, and are given two years to improve. If they don’t, they will lose their jobs, which, naturally, is Colorado teachers’ biggest fear.

I actally saw this new tool in action. I went to Lucille Erwin Middle School to do my observation for my EDUC 275 class, which is where my mom works, and she and her vice principal let me sit in as they went through the second half of the rubric. As I listened, I was surprised by how big a focus there was on what students were doing in the classroom, and what students appeared to be getting out of the lessons. It’s less about what the teacher is doing and more about what they have done in their classrooms to encourage their students to participate. There was definitely a dialogue going on between my mom and her vice principal, and she was honest about what she has and has not done and what her students are able to do now and will be able to do by the end of the year.

So I think it’s a pretty great tool, and that it has the potential to be more effective than traditional evaluations. It’s more specific and allows for some leeway, and hopefully more honesty. And, because it is so specific, I think that teachers who struggle to meet some of the standards will have a better idea of what they need to be doing in their classrooms in order to improve. Then again, I like rubrics.

Photograph © The New York Times


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