From the Statehouse

Inside Senate Bill 10-191

The educator effectiveness bill caused excitement, fear and much confusion as it moved through the legislature in a little more than a month. About 200 amendments were drafted for the bill, although many of those were not added or even proposed.

The bill sets some core requirements and uses for educator evaluations, but it leaves definitions of educator effectiveness and the details of the new system to the appointed State Council for Educator Effectiveness and to the elected State Board of Education.

The legislature will have review power over the board’s proposed rules and over a future appeals process for teachers who lose non-probationary status.

And the law won’t be fully implemented until the 2014-15 school year.

Core requirements

  • Evaluations are to “provide a basis for making decisions in the areas of hiring, compensation, promotion, assignment, professional development, earning and retaining non-probationary status, dismissal, and nonrenewal of contract.”
  • Educator effectiveness is to be determined by use of “fair, transparent, timely, rigorous and valid methods.”
  • Evaluations will be done at least once a year.
  • Performance standards shall include at least three levels, highly effective, effective and ineffective.
  • At least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on the academic growth of students.
  • At least 50 percent of a principal’s evaluation is to be determined by the academic growth of students in a school and the effectiveness of the school’s teachers.
  • Expectations of student growth can take into consideration such factors as student mobility and numbers of special education and high-risk students.
  • Educators will be given “meaningful” opportunities to improve effectiveness and provided means to share effective practices with other educators.
  • Probationary teachers must have three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness to gain non-probationary status.
  • Non-probationary teachers who receive two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations return to probation.
  • A teacher may be placed in a school only with the consent of the principal and the advice of at least two teachers who work at that school.
  • Effective non-probationary teachers who aren’t placed in a school will go into a priority hiring pool.
  • Non-probationary teachers who lose their jobs because of staff reductions will be given lists of all available jobs in their districts.
  • A non-probationary teacher who doesn’t find another job within 12 months or two hiring cycles will be placed on unpaid leave.
  • School districts and their unions can apply for waiver of these mutual consent provisions.
  • Teacher effectiveness, then seniority, will be considered when layoffs are made.

Additional details

  • Non-probationary teachers who receive ineffective evaluations may appeal those either through existing collective bargain agreements or to the superintendent or a designee. If there’s no contract, a teacher may request review by a mutually chosen third party, whose decision on whether the evaluation was arbitrary or capricious will be binding.
  • Teachers must receive written evaluations two weeks before the end of the school year.
    Principals and administrators have to maintain written records of evaluations.
  • Teachers evaluated as unsatisfactory must receive written notice and will receive remediation plans and professional development opportunities.
  • The state board will review local evaluation systems and will consider local conditions such as size, demographics and location of districts.
  • The current system of achieving non-probationary status will remain in force through the 2012-13 school year.
  • Effective non-probationary teachers who move to a new district can carry that status with them.

Timelines

  • March 1, 2011 – Council makes recommendations on the definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness, different levels of effectiveness, permitted differentiation of evaluations, testing and implementation of new evaluation systems, parent involvement and on costs of the new system.
  • Sept. 1, 2011 – State board adopts rules to implement the new system.
  • Nov. 11, 2011 – Deadline for the Colorado Department of Education to make available to districts a resource bank of assessments, processes, tools and policies that can be used to develop evaluation systems.
  • Feb. 15, 2012 – Deadline for legislators to review the state board’s rules. The legislature may veto individual rules.
  • May 1, 2012 – Deadline for the state board to submit revised versions of any vetoed rules.
  • 2011-12 school year – Department works with school districts to develop evaluation systems.
  • 2012-13 – New evaluation system will be tested.
  • January 2013 – Council makes recommendations on permanent evaluation appeals processes directly to the legislature.
  • 2013-14 – New system rolled out statewide.
  • Aug. 1, 2014 – Districts shall adopt incentive systems that encourage effective teachers in high-performing schools to move to low-performing ones.
  • 2014-15 – Final implementation to be done in this school year.

The players

  • State Council for Educator Effectiveness – It has 15 appointed members and is part of the governor’s office. Membership includes two executive branch officials, four teachers, one superintendent and two administrators, one charter school representative, one parent, one student or recent graduate and one education policy expert. (The council already has started work under terms of the executive order that created it originally.)
  • The council is allowed to create task forces, which can include non-members, and is to make its recommendations by consensus vote.
  • State Board of Education – Board members are elected from the state’s seven congressional districts. It currently has four Republicans and three Democrats, although there has been little or no partisan divide in the last couple of years. Three seats, two held by Republicans and one by a Democrat, are up the election his year.
  • Governor’s Office – Gov. Bill Ritter, who started the ball rolling with an executive order creating the original effectiveness council, isn’t running for re-election. Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Scott McInnis are considered the leading candidates to replace him.
  • Legislature – Democrats current hold majorities in both houses. All 65 House seats and 19 of 35 Senate seats are on the ballot this year.

Costs

  • $237,869 in 2010-11 and $242,587 in 2011-12 to pay for three CDE staff members. If federal funds aren’t obtained, an existing CDE contingency fund will be tapped. If that doesn’t have enough money, the State Education Fund may be used.
  • A May 11 legislative staff analysis concluded: “There is no immediate fiscal impact to districts; however, the bill will certainly require that districts begin to modify their evaluation process, and devote additional time and resources to teacher and implementation in FY 2014-15.”
  • The law also creates a Great Teachers and Leaders Fund, which can accept federal grants and outside donations, to help pay for implementation. The department is allowed to stop work on implementation if funding is insufficient.

Text of the bill – Capitalized text denotes new law. Note the explanation about what shading and underlining mean in order to track where amendments were made.

Field trip

Here’s what Superintendent Hopson told state lawmakers in Nashville about Memphis schools

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson visits in the halls of Legislation Plaza Tuesday after speaking before a legislative committee at the State Capitol.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson came to Nashville on Tuesday seeking to break the stigma and stereotypes of Memphis schools, as well as to build better relationships with state lawmakers.

He left calling his time in the State Capitol “a good first step.”

“Oftentimes, the discussion around Shelby County is somewhat negative. And we certainly have a long way to go,” Hopson told legislators on two House education committees. “I’m not going to sit here and say we’re doing everything right, but there are some things to be proud of.”

His presentation came as lawmakers begin to review legislation that could have a major impact on Memphis schools. Lawmakers are considering two private tuition voucher bills, one of which would target Memphis as a pilot. Leaders of Shelby County Schools vehemently oppose both proposals.

Lawmakers also will consider several bills that would change how Tennessee addresses its lowest performing schools, most of which are in Memphis. The State Department of Education backs those bills, which are part of Tennessee’s proposed education plan under the new federal education law.

Hopson joined school board members and other district officials in Nashville as part of the Tennessee School Boards Association Day on the Hill.

He began his presentation promising to do a better job of telling the story of Memphis schools and working with legislators to improve education in Tennessee.

Hopson then cited the district’s growth in math and literacy in 2015, the latest available testing data for all schools, as well as highlighting a number of high-performing schools and the district’s turnaround work through its Innovation Zone.

Hopson noted the poverty rate in Memphis — 40,000 students live in households where the income is less than $10,000 a year — and its affect on education of students. He also appealed to the Christian faith professed by many state lawmakers.

“When you think about faith, the word compassion comes to mind,” Hopson said. “In my mind, compassion is: You see a need, you’re moved by that need, and then you act on that need.”

He went on.

“Our district is so unique because we have suffocating poverty that many of our kids live in. And if you just think about that for a minute — what that would be like to live in a house with five, six, seven people on 200 bucks a week — … I mean, it just creates really significant challenges because kids are not always prepared to show up to school ready to learn.”

Poverty is “not an excuse” for poor performance in schools, he continued. “But I think it is important when you think about our school district and some of the challenges we have to just take a moment and think about the population that we serve,” Hopson said.

Unfortunately, the superintendent’s presentation was cut short after just 10 minutes, following Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s remarks on school turnaround work that went long. He said later that he wanted to talk more about the challenges faced by Memphis schools, many of which are priority schools that are academically in the state’s bottom 5 percent.

“We’ve got kids with severe, severe social-emotional needs,” he said of the state’s largest school system. “And absent a strategic attempt to address those needs, we’re not going to ever see the progress in accelerated fashion we want to see. It is what it is. I hope they heard that.”

Unleashed

McQueen rips Tennessee’s school turnaround work as ineffectual, overdue

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen speaks at an event in Memphis in 2015.

In a fiery speech to state lawmakers on Tuesday, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen gave a stinging assessment of Tennessee’s school turnaround work, even calling the outcomes “a little embarrassing.”

McQueen noted that the state has moved only 10 schools off its “priority” list since compiling its first list in 2012, beginning with 83 low performing schools.

“We can’t keep throwing $10 million, $11 million, $12 million, $15 million at solutions that are not solutions,” she told legislators on House education committees.

The remarks were a departure from McQueen’s usual placating tone — and her most direct condemnation of school turnaround work to date in Tennessee. That work includes programs spearheaded both by local districts and the state’s Achievement School District, which has authority to take over schools in the state’s bottom 5 percent, generally assigning them to charter operators.

But her indictment stretched far beyond the state’s role in those programs, which serve mostly poor communities. She took aim at efforts that began with the 2002 federal education law known as No Child Left Behind, which prescribed how states must deal with struggling schools.

“This is probably going to come across as a little preachy, but it is preachy,” said McQueen, who became commissioner in 2014. “We’ve got kids who were sitting in schools that we knew — we knew — and I want you to listen to the years, back in 2002, 2003, 2004, that they were in a low performing school that needed to turn around fast. (Those students have) now graduated, and we did not have the increases we needed at those schools to set them up for success.”

While McQueen didn’t single out specific turnaround initiatives, she stressed that Tennessee needs to focus on what has worked — specifically, at the 10 schools that have been moved off the state’s priority list so far. McQueen named common themes: strong school leaders, quality instruction, and community and wraparound supports, such as mental health care services.

Those successes helped to inform the school improvement component of Tennessee’s proposed new education plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Under that plan, the state would work with local districts to improve their lowest-performing schools through academic and wraparound services. The ASD, which McQueen refers to as the state’s “most rigorous intervention,” would be reined in, making it a last-resort when other efforts have failed. Lawmakers will vote on components of the plan in the coming months.

Under ESSA, states have more flexibility on how to spend money for school improvement. In the past, the federal government gave states school improvement grants with explicit instructions on how to spend them. But those grants ultimately didn’t work, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education.

McQueen told lawmakers that, under the plan, the state would give low-performing schools more resources than ever, but also would expect a quicker pace of change.

“This work is about shorter time frames with more support and expectation of outcomes that ultimately will make or break the future of Tennessee,” she said.