Colorado teachers TELL all

How will state officials and educational leaders know whether Senate Bill 10-191, the so-called teacher effectiveness, law is achieving the desired effect of creating better teachers?

Middle school math classroom
<em>EdNews</em> file photo

In part, they will consult annual results of the TELL Teaching, Empowering, Leading & Learning (TELL) Survey. The preliminary 2013 results, released Tuesday, will be used as baseline data for the new evaluation system.

Among other things, the 2013 survey found that:

  • Six out of 10 educators — or 62 percent respondents — report that the teacher evaluation process improves teachers’ instructional strategies.
  • Four out of five educators report teacher evaluations are fair in their school and six out of 10 educators — or 62 percent — agree that the teacher evaluation process accurately identifies effectiveness.
  • Of note, 27 districts piloting the State Model Evaluation System are more positive about evaluation than other educators across Colorado, including improving instructional strategies and accurately identifying effectiveness.

These are a few of the findings in a preliminary report released by the New Teacher Center, the organization that administers the survey, based on responses from  more than 33,000 educators representing 55 percent of the state’s teachers.

This represents an 8 percentage point increase from the 47 percent responding in 2011 and a 19 percentage point increase from the first TELL Survey in 2009.

On average, 57 percent of elementary school educators responded in the survey, 61 percent of middle school educators responded, 48 percent of high school educators responded, and 35 percent of educators from other types of schools, such as alternative or vocational responded.

Sixty percent of schools in the state met or exceeded the 50 percent response rate threshold required to receive an individual school-level data report and 112 of the state’s districts had sufficient response rates to attain district-level data.

Here are other key findings:

  • Six out of 10 educators, or 60 percent, agree that teachers have time available to collaborate with colleagues compared to 56 percent in 2011.
  • More than half of educators report that teachers have sufficient non-instructional time.
  • Fifty-seven percent of educators report that teacher class sizes are sufficient to help them meet individual learner needs.
  • A majority of educators agree that school leadership acknowledges teacher expertise, hold teachers to high standards and provide opportunities for teachers to lead in their school assessments and curriculum to shape instruction.
  • Four out of five educators agree that teachers in their school are recognized as educational experts (79 percent) and are trusted to make sound professional decisions about instruction (78 percent).
  • More than three-quarters of educators also report that their school leadership consistently supports teachers (77 percent).

Similar to 2011, it appears that the state’s newest teachers are not necessarily receiving strong mentoring support that will help them get better, faster. About one-quarter of the 3,853 teachers in their first three years were not assigned a mentor in 2013.

There will also be additional analyses and reports examining the connections of teaching and learning conditions with student achievement and teacher retention; validity and reliability of the survey instrument; and a variety of group comparisons (principals and teachers, etc.). All resources and reporting will be made available electronically at

The New Teacher Center is a national non-profit dedicated to “improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders,” according to its website. NTC works with schools districts, state policymakers and educators across the country to develop and implement induction programs aligned with district learning goals.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”