Big decision left to final meeting of licensing group

How and whether to tie teacher evaluations to teacher licenses, the decision facing an advisory group studying the issue, has been left to the panel’s final meeting next month.

The 35-member LEAD Compact Working Group has been meeting — and sometimes struggling — since August to develop recommendations about possible licensing legislation for the 2014 legislature.

The key issue, on which members are significantly divided, is whether a teacher’s evaluation under the educator effectiveness law should be a key factor in license renewal. (The even more controversial issue of whether ineffective ratings should lead to license revocation is not on the table.)

A subcommittee that’s been wrestling with the issue came back to the full working group on Wednesday with three compromise options that would use evaluation results only at certain steps of licensing.

For instance, one option would allow new teachers to obtain an “initial” license that could be renewed indefinitely, provided teachers completed required professional development. Evaluation results would not be a factor in renewal of that license.

But a teacher could obtain a “professional” license based on his or her evaluation rating, and also could earn a “master” license based on evaluations.

The subcommittee’s suggestions also include an “alternative 2” path into teaching. That would allow a candidate who has a bachelor’s degree and who passes a test and a background check to get a teaching license. Current law requires prospective teachers to be university trained, have completed a residency program or be trained in a state-approved alternative training program called “alternative 1.” (The current system also allows for “emergency” licenses, sometimes used by districts than can’t fill vacancies with traditional candidates.)

Some subcommittee members also believe any use of evaluation data should be delayed until the evaluation system has been fully rolled out and state officials have validated that it’s working as intended. (The evaluation system is being used for the first time statewide this year.)

The subcommittee’s suggestions weren’t formal recommendations because members of that group don’t agree on all the details.

Based on discussion by the full group Wednesday, the subcommittee is going back to work again in an attempt to come up with a more refined plan. That will be presented at the full group’s last meeting Dec. 2-3 in Keystone.

Whatever the compact comes up with will only be advisory to legislators, including Denver Democratic Sen. Mike Johnston, who are considering licensing legislation next year. But the group was convened in hopes of reaching agreement among key education interest groups so as to avoid bruising legislative fights over licensing next year.

See this EdNews story for more background on the compact’s work.