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Colo. teacher tenure changes could be delayed

COLLEEN SLEVIN
Associated Press Writer

DENVER – State lawmakers are considering delaying the enactment of proposed tougher teacher tenure rules for two years but the state’s teachers’ union still opposes the bill, arguing that problems with how teachers are evaluated need to be fixed first.

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, originally proposed raising tenure standards starting next year but on Wednesday proposed delaying that until 2013. Teachers could lose their tenure starting in 2014.

Currently, teachers can earn job protections after three years in the classroom. Legislation being considered by the Senate Education Committee would only grant tenure to educators whose students have improved during the school year.



Under the bill, teachers who now have tenure now could lose it if their students don’t show progress.

For now, the council appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter would work out the details about how teachers would be evaluated and the Legislature would vote on whether to make any changes to that plan.



Opponents say principals don’t always have time to evaluate teachers now, but the measure would try to change that by evaluating principals based both on how their students and teachers are doing.

Colorado Education Association president Beverly Ingle told the committee Wednesday that there’s a lack of trust right now between administrators and teachers, and that the details about how teachers should be evaluated before sanctions are addressed.

She said current education plans change yearly based on the latest standardized test results and teachers don’t always have access to the data they need to help students.



“That takes dialogue, not punitive action,” she said.

CEA also opposes the bill because teachers who lose their tenure protections – called non-probationary status – would lose their right to a hearing before being fired.

One teacher testified in favor of the bill during the first day of hearings on the bill.

“We need to advance teachers in our system not because they grow older but because they get better,” said Ben Jackson, a third-year English teacher at Bruce Randolph High School in Denver.

The bill is aimed at helping the state win $175 million in federal funding for education reforms. The two states that won in the first round have passed similar laws.

Setting up a database to track principal and teacher effectiveness is expected to cost $237,869, which backers plan to pay for with donations. The teachers’ union estimates that the extra tests to evaluate students, yearly evaluations and promised bonuses for effective teachers who help their colleagues could cost just as much as the amount that the state could win in the federal “Race to the Top” competition.

Johnston said the federal dollars would pay for bonuses but that the districts could pay for evaluations under their current budgets.

He also said the state has already promised to develop new assessments as an alternative to its current standardized tests and that tenure reform could help it win grants to pay for them.

The education committee will hear from more witnesses Thursday before voting on the bill and the proposed changes.

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The measure is Senate Bill 191.


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