20th 2011
What’s Left Unsaid in CTQ Report on Implementing Colorado SB 191

Posted under Denver & Online Schools & Principals & Public Charter Schools & State Board of Education & Teachers

A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts about Colorado’s implementation of the educator effectiveness law (SB 191) — including a video from Step Up Colorado — that prompted a lengthy and thoughtful comment from an area teacher who is part of the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ)’s New Millennium Initiative (NMI).

Then someone else from CTQ reached out to my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow to notify him of a report, co-authored by Denver-area teachers, with thoughts on SB 191 implementation. I thought it fitting to dig in and follow up, seeing as how it was just last week Ben shared his thoughts before the State Board of Education on this very topic.

Anyway, the CTQ report Making Teacher Evaluations Work for Students: Voices from the Classroom was released earlier this week. Some of the 21 teachers’ main points include:

  • Using locally developed assessments alongside the Colorado Growth Model to measure student learning gains [more advanced districts like Harrison Two have experience taking this approach];
  • Academic growth measures should be broken into relevant student subgroups, and should incorporate school attendance [where do online and blended learning programs fit in?];
  • Instructional evaluators not only “should be trained extensively” but also should include significant use of peer evaluation through hybrid teacher-leaders; and
  • “Professional guilds of teachers” should be afforded the responsibility of professional development and teacher remediation.

It was instructive to get a somewhat different perspective on the work of bringing an effective educator evaluation system to life, but I don’t think the report’s recommendations ultimately are bold enough to bring about needed changes. For one thing, they are too skeptical and dismissive of the baseball-like potential of value-added measures. On paper the peer evaluation piece and CTQ’s accompanying “teacherpreneur” idea read like good ideas, but to work and benefit students at scale they need the balance of serious improvements to the educator preparation process (see the review being undertaken by NCTQ).

Then there’s the notion of the professional teacher guild, which really piqued Ben’s attention. Ben asked CTQ spokesperson Braden Welborn by email: “Was there any discussion of the ongoing roles of unionism and bargaining in relation to such a re-envisioning of the teaching profession?” Welborn wrote on behalf of the 21 teachers — which represent a mix of union and non-union members, and includes a few with Teach for America and/or innovation school experience, but interestingly no one from the charter sector:

The Denver NMI team has talked about how they can work together with unions to play a more prominent role in upholding high standards for the teaching profession and the team believes that unions themselves could be more like professional guilds. This leadership could go beyond the bargaining table—unions could help ensure that evaluation systems are linked to appropriate supports (like relevant professional development and well-trained evaluators).

Again, it sounds nice. But in all seriousness how do we go beyond discussions to accomplish the transformation of teaching from the industrial union model to a true professional guild? Colorado public school teachers thankfully have membership options, and small progress is being made in other states in the forms of local-only unions, faculty senates and the like. So why not think bigger? Think bolder?

Finally, maybe it fell outside their mission, but the CTQ report essentially left the principal evaluation piece of SB 191 unexplored. The Denver NMI teachers’ written assessment of statewide educator effectiveness implementation offers some valuable perspectives and insights, but what they left unsaid may be the most telling of all.


7 Responses to “What’s Left Unsaid in CTQ Report on Implementing Colorado SB 191”

  1. Barnett Berry on 23 May 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks for your thoughtful review of the Denver NMI report on teacher evaluation in Colorado. As a researcher (and advocate for the teaching profession) who works with this terrific group of young teacher leaders, I believe you raise some excellent points. I do want to provide some additional context for the report. First of all, this report is one of many products and actions that will be developed and undertaken by this growing virtual network of classroom teachers in CO who seek to both teach and lead in their schools and profession. (By the way, similar groups of teachers are at work in our New Millennium Initiative sites in Washington, California, Illinois, and Florida). I am certain that the issues you have raised (for example, the use of value-added measures and how teachers can transform their unions into professional guilds) will be addressed in much more depth—and soon—by teachers involved in the New Millennium Initiative in Denver and elsewhere. All of these important issues could not be taken on in one report.

    Of course, our New Millennium Initiative participants are only some of the thousands of teachers who are digging into critical policy issues as members of CTQ’s virtual communities. These teachers are developing sophisticated approaches to using student test score data as part of a comprehensive teacher and teaching effectiveness evaluation system. They’re studying relevant policies and research, and engaging in dialogue with experts on teacher evaluation. Recently, about 50 teachers from our network took part in a lively discussion with Heather Hill from Harvard, whose brilliant paper on VAM in the American Educational Research Journal in November 2010. ) (BTW, VAM is very different than Colorado’s growth model and would generate different statistical estimates for those who are effective and those who are not).

    A recent product of this kind of exploration is “New Student Assessments and Advancing Teaching as a Results-Oriented Profession” at, which CTQ developed in partnership with three expert teachers at the request of the Gates Foundation. Our NMI team in Washington has been considering how to use value-added in a non-mechanical way—you can look forward to their report in the coming months.

    We’ll have more to share soon. But most importantly, we welcome the constructive dialogue about the future of the profession that makes all others possible.


  2. Eddie on 23 May 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Mr. Berry, Thank you for your helpful and informative comment. We look forward to reading the reports you cited, and plan to stay engaged with this issue in the near future.

  3. Ed is Watching » Tennessee One to Watch as Colorado Moves Forward on Educator Effectiveness on 06 Jun 2011 at 11:15 am #

    [...] Monday! The debate over implementing Colorado’s educator effectiveness law (aka SB 191) continues to grow. This week the State Board of Education is scheduled to hear a staff [...]

  4. Ed is Watching » Colorado Has Made Some Progress, But a C for Teacher Policy Isn’t Good Enough on 01 Feb 2012 at 6:15 pm #

    [...] other states. Not only are we 12th in the amount of progress made in the past two years — Senate Bill 191, anyone? — but we are also 9th out of 51 (including D.C.) in the overall quality of the [...]

  5. Ed is Watching » Late-Night Louisiana House Advances School Choice, Tenure Reform Bills on 26 Mar 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    [...] teacher policies appears in some ways to be even more ambitious than Colorado’s 2010 landmark Senate Bill 191 — including the requirement to tie educator effectiveness more closely to compensation, in [...]

  6. Ed is Watching » In Denver on April 12? Bring Your Brown Bag Lunch to a “Teachers Matter” Event on 27 Mar 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    [...] SB 191 and the state’s work on educator effectiveness? If that weren’t enough, there’s [...]

  7. Late-Night Louisiana House Advances School Choice, Tenure Reform Bills | Independence Institute on 03 Feb 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    [...] teacher policies appears in some ways to be even more ambitious than Colorado’s 2010 landmark Senate Bill 191 — including the requirement to tie educator effectiveness more closely to compensation, in [...]

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