Who Is In Charge

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.

Leadership

New principal hired for Denver’s storied Manual High School

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat
Denver's Manual High School

Manual High School, a storied school in northeast Denver that has struggled academically, finally will have a new principal: Joe Glover, who currently serves as an assistant principal at nearby East High.

Glover will start his new job on Jan. 1, according to a letter from district administrators to Manual students, families, and community members. Glover will take over for an interim principal who is leading the school this fall. The last permanent principal abruptly resigned in March.

This was the second time this year that Denver Public Schools had tried to hire a principal for Manual. Its first attempt ended when the top prospect turned down the job.

Glover was one of two finalists for the position. The other finalist, Douglas Clinkscales, has worked at Manual since 2007 and is currently the assistant principal and athletic director.

Manual serves about 300 students, nearly all of whom are black and Latino and come from low-income families. Though the school’s enrollment is small, its significance is big.

Manual is often held up as one of the most traumatic examples of the district’s strategy of closing low-performing schools and reopening them with a new program in hopes of better outcomes. Manual was closed in 2006 and reopened in 2007. While the school has seen some successes since then, its students have continued to struggle on state tests.

Read Glover’s resume below.

Super Search

Critics see Susana Cordova’s husband’s job as a conflict of interest. Here’s what you need to know.

PHOTO: Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat
Susana Cordova visits College View Elementary School in 2016.

Since Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova was named the sole finalist for the Denver school district’s top job last week, critics have zeroed in on one fact in particular: Cordova’s husband is a banker who does business with charter schools.

Charter schools are controversial. They are funded with public money but independently run by nonprofit boards of directors. In Colorado, the majority of charters are authorized by school districts — and Denver Public Schools has the most in the state: 60 of its 213 schools are charters.

Charter schools have played a key role in Denver’s approach to school improvement and have sometimes replaced low-performing district-run schools. Cordova worked in and supervised district-run schools during her time with Denver Public Schools, but community members who don’t like charters have raised concerns about her family connection to charter schools.

Cordova’s husband, Eric Duran, is an investment banker for a nationwide financial company called D.A. Davidson, which has an office in Denver. The company describes Duran as “one of the leading investment bankers in the charter school movement,” and says he’s done deals in Pennsylvania, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The deals Duran has done include one in Denver with a charter school called Monarch Montessori, which serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade in the far northeast part of the city. In 2015, Monarch Montessori issued $8.8 million in bonds to pay for the construction of five new classrooms, space for a gymnasium and assemblies, and an expanded cafeteria.

An offering document on file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission notes that D.A. Davidson was paid an underwriter’s fee of $132,225 as part of the Monarch Montessori deal.

At the time, Cordova held the position of chief schools officer for Denver Public Schools and was responsible for overseeing 165 district-run schools. She did not oversee charter schools or play a role in approving charter schools.

If Cordova is hired as superintendent, D.A. Davidson has said it will not do any business with Denver Public Schools or with any charter schools in Denver during her tenure.

The Monarch Montessori deal was between D.A. Davidson and the charter school’s board of directors; the offering document was signed by one of the school’s founders, who also served as president of its board, and a special education teacher who was on the board.

Denver Public Schools was not involved in the deal. In a statement, the district said it “does not have any financial obligations with the bonds issued by charters,” and district leaders “do not influence the financing decisions by independent charter schools.”

But parents and community members who don’t like charter schools see Duran’s work as evidence that Cordova has personally profited from charter schools, which they argue is a conflict of interest and makes her unfit to be superintendent of the school system. They have raised the issue repeatedly on social media.

Duran’s job was also the subject of a submitted question at a forum Wednesday night related to Cordova’s selection as the sole finalist.

In response, Cordova emphasized that no Denver Public Schools employee — including herself — had anything to do with the 2015 Monarch Montessori deal or with two other deals that other D.A. Davidson bankers have done with Denver charter schools in the past 10 years.

She also said she’s proud of her husband, who grew up poor in Denver, sleeping on the floor of the 800-square-foot apartment he shared with his extended family. After graduating from North High School, she said he got a scholarship to college and went onto a career in finance.

“He’s spent the vast majority of his career working on things like affordable housing, public school finance, hospitals — things that I believe we all believe are important for our communities to be thriving,” said Cordova, who is also a graduate of Denver Public Schools and has worked for the district since 1989. “So I’m incredibly proud of the work he has done.”

Charter school bond deals are actually relatively rare in Denver. The only reason a charter school would issue a bond is if it wanted to build, expand, or repair its own building. But most charter schools in Denver don’t own their own buildings. That’s because the district has been more amenable than most in the entire country to sharing space in its existing buildings with charter schools for a fee, a practice known as co-location.

The Denver school board named Cordova the sole finalist for the superintendent job last week. The board — which governs the entire school district and is separate from charter school boards — is expected to vote Dec. 17 on whether to appoint Cordova to the top job.