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.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.