Educator Effectiveness Act put teachers, principals to the test
This is the final column discussing the major initiatives that Colorado school districts are implementing for the 2013-14 school year.
Teachers and school administrators have seen many changes this year. New standards, new lesson units and new assessments are just part of the ever-changing landscape of public education.
The last of the large statewide initiatives that school districts across the state are facing this year is the Educator Effectiveness Act, which dramatically changes the way that teachers and principals are evaluated.
Beginning this year, all Colorado school districts began implementing the new annual evaluation system that aligns to Senate Bill 10-191. The new evaluations have been designed specifically to provide ongoing feedback on how educator practices impact student learning.
“Implementing the new Educator Effectiveness Act, finding the time to fulfill the other required duties of a principal, and adding this responsibility to the other new, statewide initiatives this year has been hard, very hard,” said Graham Mesa Elementary Principal Heather Grumley. “But it has generated some very deep thinking for teachers around their craft, and honestly, it has produced by far, the best conversations I have had with educators in my career.”
For the first time, Colorado has statewide standards, Quality Standards, defining effective teaching. The new evaluations use the Quality Standards as a foundation with the overarching goal of continued professional growth for all principals and teachers. Teachers have five quality standards with specific elements within each standard and principals have six quality standards. Both teachers and administrators are evaluated on their proficiency in each element and can receive a basic, partially proficient, proficient, accomplished or exemplary rating around each element.
Fifty percent of both teachers’ and principals’ evaluations must be built around student data. That data must include standardized test scores and growth if applicable but also includes growth goals that are set by the teacher and principal collectively as part of their beginning-of-the-year conversations.
The first year with the new evaluation system is a practice year (any evaluation rating doesn’t count this year) giving Colorado educators the opportunity to adjust to the new evaluations in a low-stakes environment. Principals meet one-on-one with each teacher at the beginning of the year to goal set, conduct mid-year reviews as well as final reviews and conduct several formal observations of all teachers throughout the school year. Teachers begin the year with a self-assessment to reflect on their own practice, participate in meetings throughout the school year with principals to discuss their progress. To be considered accomplished or exemplary, teachers must demonstrate leadership in their building, and the outcomes are driven around student social, emotional and academic growth.
Across the board, teachers and administrators in Garfield Re-2 have been apprehensive about the implementation of the Educator Effectiveness Act. At this point in the process, teachers are going through mid-year reviews with their principals and again, the conversations have been hard, but some teachers are finding them very productive.
“When I first saw the [Educator Effectiveness Act] rubric, it was intimidating. It’s huge and so much to think about at once,” said Graham Mesa second-grade teacher Jennie Fideldy. “There are so many initiatives coming at us at once, it seemed surreal last year. Now that it is here, it is very much real.”
Fideldy admits that when she received the completed rubric from Grumley, she was less than pleased.
“I was mad. When I first looked at the report I created a document and just started typing because I felt like I had to defend myself. On the rubric, if you miss one skill in the basic category, and have all of them filled in on proficient, you still drop back to basic, and that didn’t feel good,” she explained.
After she sat down with her principal to discuss the document, however, Fideldy’s opinion changed.
“The Educator Effectiveness Act rubric has changed the conversation,” she explained. “There are more specifics, and it is not just a general conversation about how are you doing, it drives the conversation. [For me] it feels like a coach/mentor conversation rather than a principal/teacher conversation, and it gave me ideas and suggestions about how to improve. It narrowed the conversation about our student growth goals.”
Garfield Re-2 School Board recognitions
At the Dec. 10 school board meeting at Rifle High School, the school board honored several community and staff members. The Business of the Month was awarded to Jimmy Breslin from Columbine Ford. Columbine Ford sponsored the “Drive One for your School” as a fundraiser for the RHS baseball team and Spanish club. The Volunteer of the Month was awarded to Judge Jonathan Potosky for his work with the Rifle High School Mock Trial team. The Staff Member of the Month was David Ziegler for his exceptional support of students.
The next school board meeting will be at the Garfield Re-2 Learning Opportunities Center at 6 p.m. in Rifle on Jan. 14.
Theresa Hamilton is the director of districtwide services for the Garfield School District Re-2, serving Rifle, Silt and New Castle. Contact her at 665-7621.
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The Glenwood Springs City Council is slated to discuss an amendment to the city ordinance that could allow commercial use of parks through a permitting system.