I’ve given SB 191 a fair hearing. I’ve met with proponents in the legislature to hear their arguments. And, although I do believe that many supporters sincerely believe 191 will improve student outcomes, I’m entirely unpersuaded by their arguments.
Proponents argue that the quality of teaching is the primary factor that leads to greater student achievement. I don’t doubt that. But I don’t believe that 191, alone, will drastically improve teaching or, in turn, student outcomes.
It’s clear that 191 is intended primarily as a tool to get rid of teachers who are failing to perform. There is nothing in 191 to incentivize teachers, provide for more professional development, or provide teachers with additional resources or changed environments. So to believe that 191, alone, will improve teaching requires me to believe that simply replacing some bad teachers, whatever percentage that is, is enough to improve schools. And I just don’t believe that.
Some supporters of 191 admit that we need much greater funding for public education in Colorado (we rank near the bottom of all states currently in spending). And those same people claim that there is support even among Republicans for a ballot issue that would do just that. Believing that passing 191 will generate Republican support for a ballot issue raising taxes to expand education funding is naive.
If 191 were part of a broader set of education reforms, I might be more persuaded that it will help lead to better schools. But that isn’t the case. And I can’t support it. Teachers, and students, deserve better.
This diary repeats the words “SB 191, alone” several times, as though the only way to view supporting it were in a vacuum. But as we know, public policy and politics don’t happen in a vacuum.
No one is suggesting that SB 191 is a silver bullet, only a first step. In education policy, you can view that first step in SB 191 in terms of developing a fair, balanced way of measuring, supporting, compensating and rewarding effectiveness in teaching and school leadership. Teachers have said that they are not happy with the current system, in which they are evaluated every three years, and are subject to the whims of ineffective principals’ assessment of their skills. They also resent one-size-fits-all professional development, as though every teacher in the building needed the same retraining or intervention. SB 191 seeks to provide that, by tying 50% of an evaluation to student achievement and leaving the remaining 50% to be determined by the work of the Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness, the CDE, and a final review by the state legislature. Teachers will be involved in every stage of this over several years. And principals will be evaluated in part by their improved support for struggling teachers, so they will be incentivised – horrible word – to be better educator-mentors.
So no – “SB 191, alone”, won’t solve anything – but SB 191, together with the authentic hard work of all these parties, will help create an evaluation system that will support everyone in their practice. And that will be better for teachers, students, and their communities.
And then to the politics. “SB 191, alone” doesn’t necessarily create a Ref C coalition. But it’s one step along a road to conditions that might make that possible. Bobby and I were both part of building the last one, and we know that it took a good faith effort of a lot of individuals and organizations that weren’t comfortable with one another, working together, to cobble that into place. That’s not naive – that’s Colorado reality.
The framers and advocates who have been working to build and refine this measure deserve credit for their activist outreach in amending this bill to make it and its impacts less concerning to teachers. The bill in its current form provides the first ever statutory assurance that all non-probationary teachers will have the right to appeal any ineffective evaluation they receive. They have slowed down the timeline initially proposed considerably, now stretched out to 2015. (This may have changed as I am writing this, as the negotiations are ongoing.)
Teachers, and students, deserve better.