Colorado education reformer makes New York Times list of young Democrats worth watching

Arguably Colorado’s highest profile education reformer and the architect of the state’s landmark (and controversial) teacher effectiveness law, state Sen. Mike Johnston was called out Sunday by the New York Times‘s Frank Bruni as one of the nation’s “14 Young Democrats to Watch.”

“One of the most authoritative and impassioned advocates of education reform, Johnston, 41, worked with Teach for America in Mississippi and spent six years as a principal in public schools in the Denver area,” Bruni wrote in the print version. “He’s mentioned frequently as a possible successor to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.”

Johnston joins mayors, U.S. representatives, big-city council members and a possible Hillary Clinton running mate on a list Bruni wrote is meant to contradict the storyline that the Democratic Party lacks “youthful energy.”

Johnston was principal at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts in Thornton before being appointed in 2009 to a state Senate seat vacated by former Senate president Peter Groff, who left to take a federal Department of Education appointment under President Obama.

In 2010, Johnston was elected to serve the remaining two years of Groff’s term. He was re-elected in 2012 to serve another four years. Term limits prevent him from running again.

The law he’s best known for is still widely referred to as Senate Bill 191. Passed in 2010, it requires that at least half of a teacher’s evaluation be based on the academic growth of his or her students. The law also allows teachers to essentially be stripped of their tenure if they receive unsatisfactory evaluations two years in a row.