One of the more contentious pieces of legislation passed in last year’s session of the Colorado Assembly was an ambitious education reform plan, Senate Bill 191, the “Great Teachers and Leaders” bill. Passed in the hope that it would make the state better prepared to receive competitive “Race to the Top” federal funds, the bill split Democrats between reform-minded legislators and supporters of teachers, who didn’t believe that the bill had the right targets or motivations–not to mention the dire state of education funding in Colorado. And Colorado, for a host of Byzantine reasons, didn’t get the extra federal money regardless.
But SB-191’s teacher effectiveness standards are still the law, and all parties have moved on to implementation–recommendations from a study committee are expected this spring. And this is where the sides seem to have changed a little according to sources: the Colorado Education Association is now said to be in general agreement with the principal backer of SB-191, Sen. Michael Johnston, on the details of implementing a teacher evaluation system. Johnston and the CEA are reportedly increasingly at odds with the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) and the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), with the dispute essentially boiling down to a strong statewide standard for evaluations, which Johnston and the CEA prefer, versus a potentially much weaker “local standards” based system that CASE, CASB, and traditional right-leaning education reform groups favor.
What sources say today is the objections from teachers were not to a standards-based system for tenure and evaluation of teachers in the abstract, but trying to ensure that standards were administered fairly and consistently–and adequately funded. Now that the process has moved on to implementation, it’s important to understand how these former adversaries now have pretty closely aligned goals. To be distinguished from the old-school public education antagonists who also supported SB-191, but in the end for very different reasons than Sen. Johnston.