May 6, 2010 -- Denver Post... AFT's Randi Weingarten weighs inBack in 2010, Randi Weingarten, apparently to the surprise of the world -- but not to us here in NYC and other cities on her sellout tour (Newark, Detroit) -- endorsed the Colorado teacher evaluation plan.
Wednesday’s endorsement of Senate Bill 191 by the American Federation of Teachers did not phase many in Colorado but caused quite a stir around the nation.
Nevertheless, AFT President Randi Weingarten said her organization’s support of the bill shouldn’t come as a surprise.
In January, Weingarten made a speech urging her 1.4 million members to accept a form of teacher evaluation that takes student achievement into account.
In that speech Weingarten called for more frequent and more rigorous evaluations and said she wanted standardized test scores and other measures of student performance to be part of the process.... http://blogs.denverpost.com/coloradoclassroom/2010/05/06/afts-randi-weingarten-weighs-in/318/
Now skip ahead to today's Edweek article with this little nugget:
all of Colorado’s 238 charter schools waived out of the system.
Read this and then go back and read the full article on Randi's endorsement plus these other links to Randi back in 2010. You won't hear a peep of mea culpa from our Unity leaders.
How We Got Colorado's Teacher-Evaluation Reform Wrong
Colorado's missteps on teacher evaluation is a cautionary tale for other states
The opening speeches highlighted the recent passage of Colorado Senate Bill 10-191—a dramatic law which required that 50 percent of a teacher evaluation be based upon student academic growth. This offered a bold new vision for how teachers would be evaluated and whether they would gain or lose tenure based on the merits of their impact on student achievement.
Colorado would be one of several "ground zeros" for reforming teacher evaluation in the country. Many, including myself, thought these new state policies would allow our best teachers to shine. They would finally have useful feedback, be differentiated on an objective scale of effectiveness, and lose tenure if they weren’t performing. Teachers would be treated like other professionals and less like interchangeable widgets.
And yet. Implementation did not live up to the promises.
Colorado Department of Education data released in February show that the distribution of teacher effectiveness in the state looks much as it did before passage of the bill. Eighty-eight percent of Colorado teachers were rated effective or highly effective, 4 percent were partially effective, 7.8 percent of teachers were not rated, and less than 1 percent were deemed ineffective. In other words, we leveraged everything we could and not only didn’t advance teacher effectiveness, we created a massive bureaucracy and alienated many in the field.
Second, there has been little embrace of the state’s new teacher-evaluation system even from administrators frustrated with the former system. There were exceptions, namely the districts of Denver and Harrison, which had far fewer highly effective teachers than elsewhere in the state. Both districts invested time and resources in the development of a system that more accurately reflects a teacher’s impact on student learning. Yet most Colorado districts were forced to create new evaluation systems in alignment with the new law or adopt the state system, and most did the latter. This meant that these districts focused on compliance (and checking off evaluation boxes), rather than using the law to support teacher improvement.
Third, we continue to have a leadership problem. Research shows that teacher evaluators are still not likely to give direct and honest feedback to teachers. A Brown University study on teacher evaluators in these new systems shows that the evaluators are three times more likely to rate teachers higher than they should be rated. This is a problem of school and district culture, not a fault with the evaluation rubric.
Fourth, all of Colorado’s 238 charter schools waived out of the system.
We didn’t understand how most school systems would respond to these teacher-evaluation laws. We failed to track implementation and didn’t check our assumptions along the way.
The new teacher-evaluation laws in Colorado and now 40 other states seem a classic example of putting policy ahead of practice. Great in theory, but unrealistic when it comes to implementation. The laws were constructed around a particular set of assumptions about school district capacity and commitment. We underestimated the propensity of districts to morph "innovations" into existing practice and treat the new evaluation laws as just one more compliance requirement. We also failed to understand the political and district costs of tying such laws to federal incentives, particularly given a strong ethos of local control in many school districts, like most of those in Colorado.
As a longtime educator and education advocate, I got caught up in the hubris. I helped construct and strongly supported the teacher-evaluation law but didn’t anticipate how the state education department and school districts would turn the law into practice. I figured it would be difficult to end up with something any worse than what was practice in 2009.
Going forward will be a challenge. Most teachers’ unions have not supported these new evaluation laws and will look for any excuse to gut them and go back to the world where there were no objective measures of teacher effectiveness.
But we need to dig into what has happened—to understand what worked, what did not, and why. It’s not too late to acknowledge our mistakes and switch course. Instead of doubling down on ineffective policies, we must confront the quagmire and work toward a better solution. We should work back from the practice in our best schools and districts. Improving education requires that push forward, and it won’t happen overnight.