I was only three sentences into CEA President Beverly Ingle’s Op-Ed in the Denver Post on April 21 when I knew I had to respond. You see, her third sentence was a poorly worded question that actually made no sense, although I could infer what it was that she meant to ask. So, after reading three sentences of a piece written by the President of the Colorado Education Association, only 2 of them make sense. I used to be a high school math teacher, not an English teacher. Still, having been a teacher and dues-paying state/federal union member before leaving education, I am curious as to what this op-ed will reveal. Read on, intrepid taxpayer, let’s see if this was an aberration.
Next up, a false generalization stating that supporters of SB 191 claim that passage of the bill would guarantee that Colorado will win federal funds in Round 2 of “Race to the Top.” Certainly I could have missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone make such guarantees.
Next paragraph: a sentence mixing tenses stating that “Next year, Colorado school districts are receiving…” I believe that should be “will receive.” Continuing on, it looks like we have the classic straw man argument, setting up the potential value of winning Race to the Top funds of $25 per student vs. budget cuts of $450 per student. The actual title of the bill is “Concerning Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness”, not “A Guaranteed Method to Win Race to the Top Funding.” Mrs. Ingle seems to either be missing the point of the bill, or misleading us with a straw man argument.
Moving on, I see that her next line of objection to the bill is that it will create an unfunded mandate for school districts in Colorado. As I read the Colorado Legislative Council Staff Fiscal Note on the State and Local Impact of SB 191, I see that she is correct. The note specifically states that “These expenses for changing the evaluation and review process will be paid from existing school and district budgets.” I agree that legislating unfunded mandates can certainly be a problem.
What is Mrs. Ingle’s budget-busting concern? Every teacher and principal would have to be evaluated every year. This is too onerous for schools? Colorado schools already evaluate all non-tenured teachers annually. This bill specifically states that “Review and evaluation of probationary (non-tenured) teachers is unchanged.” Colorado schools currently review tenured teachers every three years. This bill would cause tenured teachers to be reviewed annually instead of every three years. Mrs. Ingle argues that this would be a budget-busting burden because “School districts do not have the capacity to evaluate every employee every year under their current management structure and budgets.” So increasing the evaluations of a sub-set of your teaching staff, tenured teachers only, from every three years to annually is beyond the capabilities of “current management structure and budgets?” If that’s true, then that’s a pretty damning indictment of the current system.
Mrs. Ingle states that “CEA and its members want a new system that is rigorous, objective, transparent and valid.” She’s in luck! The Colorado Legislative Council Staff’s Summary of SB 191 states that under this proposed legislation, “Teachers and principals are evaluated using multiple fair, transparent, timely, rigorous, and valid methods.” The summary states that boards must ensure that:
• teachers and principals are evaluated using multiple fair, transparent, timely, rigorous, and valid methods;
Other elements of the bill provide:
• at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is determined by the academic growth of the teacher’s students;
• at least 66 percent of a principal’s evaluation is determined by a combination of the
• academic growth of the students and the demonstrated effectiveness of the teachers in the principal’s school;
• highly effective teachers and principals have access to career ladders that will help them earn additional pay in return for sharing effective practices with other educators; and
• the state can adopt and implement a plan for equitable distribution of highly effective teachers and principals.
• at least 1 annual observation with written report of principals
The other principal elements of the bill provide:
• teacher tenure after three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness
• review of non-tenured teachers remains unchanged
Here is the real deal killer for the CEA:
• at least 1 annual observation with written report of tenured teachers
• teachers shall earn tenure after 3 consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness but lose tenure if they fail to demonstrate effectiveness for 2 consecutive years (not be fired, just lose tenure)
• a teacher may only be assigned to a school only with the receiving school’s consent
• teachers unable to secure a school assignment after two hiring cycles will be placed on unpaid leave until they can secure an assignment
So to summarize the bill, the major impacts of this legislation would be to create annual reviews for tenured teachers (just like the private sector), tie a portion of the review for all teachers and administrators to their work product (just like the private sector), provide additional pay and career opportunities for highly effective teachers (just like the private sector), and allow schools to have the right to refuse a poor teacher (just like the private sector).
Who wants to see us “Rushing to adopt a system like SB 191 proposes…” I do! Yet Mrs. Ingle states that this proposed system “will only result in another evaluation system that teachers view as a joke.” Really? Explain the punch line of this joke to me, a taxpayer who funds this system. What is it about a) annual reviews, b) tying a portion of one’s review to their work product, c) providing career opportunities for highly effective teachers, and d) giving schools the right to refuse a poor teacher, that constitute a joke?
Mrs. Ingle states that “The teacher evaluation system in Colorado is broken.” Really? Who has been in charge of this system to date? Who’s fault is this? Could it be… teachers, administrators, boards and unions? Mrs. Ingle states that “No one wants an effective, quality teacher in every classroom more than the Colorado Education Association and its 40,000 members.” Really? Yet in the same Op-Ed she states that their own evaluation system is broken.
Here’s the question that no one has asked the teachers’ union that opposes this bill – where have you been? In 1984 Colorado passed a law requiring evaluations of teachers. Where have you been the past 26 years? But now that the people have decided that evaluations should have consequences, the CEA squeals like a stuck pig. Give me a break.
The reality is that teacher unions are quite clear as to who and what they represent. The late Al Shanker, for decades the president of the United Federation of Teachers as well as the president of the American Federation of Teachers, was once asked why the AFT didn’t put more emphasis on students. He replied that, “When students start paying union dues I’ll start representing students.”
The CEA has rolled some of its 40,000 members down to the Capitol to cry crocodile tears when the reality is that they are simply protecting their own self-interests by fighting a bill that would cause every teacher to be reviewed annually, allow for bad teachers to lose tenure, create career opportunities for highly effective teachers, and allow for schools to refuse to accept sub-standard teachers.
Who wants to see us “Rushing to adopt a system like SB 191 proposes…”? Count me in.