by Jane Ritter
The Licensed Personnel Performance Evaluation Act (Act), Article 9 of Title 22, C.R.S., created in 1984, addresses licensed personnel evaluations for K-12 educators. Minor amendments to the Act were made over the years, but until 2010, the essence of the Act remained untouched.
In 2010, the General Assembly passed the controversial S.B. 10-191, the majority of which focused on a sweeping overhaul of the Act and the way teachers, principals, and other licensed educators are evaluated.
Central to the licensed personnel evaluation system is the concept of probationary and nonprobationary status for teachers. Prior to the adoption of S.B. 10-191, a teacher who had completed three years of employment and was re-employed for a fourth year was automatically granted nonprobationary status and was no longer subject to certain conditions of employment and dismissal (see §22-63-203, C.R.S.). A probationary teacher, on the other hand, was subject to the employment provisions of section 22-63-203, C.R.S. Importantly, there were no provisions in statute prior to the passage of S.B. 10-191 for revocation of nonprobationary status.
With the passage of S.B. 10-191, requirements other than the passage of time were set for the acquisition or loss of nonprobationary status. A probationary teacher is now defined as one who has not completed three consecutive years of demonstrated effectiveness OR a nonprobationary teacher who has had two consecutive years of demonstrated ineffectiveness (§22-63-103, C.R.S.). In other words, a teacher must continually prove his or her effectiveness to get the rewards of nonprobationary status. If he or she does not continue to be effective, the nonprobationary status can now be revoked.
The original version of the Licensed Personnel Performance Evaluation Act included the terms “satisfactory” and “unsatisfactory” to describe teacher performance. These terms were vague and not defined in either statute or agency rules. As long as a teacher performed “satisfactorily”, he or she was on his or her way to nonprobationary status. At first glance, one might think that S.B. 10-191 simply changed the terminology from “satisfactory/unsatisfactory” to “effective/ineffective”. However, it goes much deeper than that.
Although “effective” and “ineffective” are not defined in statute, the State Board of Education (the Board) was directed to promulgate rules to include a thorough definition of effectiveness for teachers and principals. The Board did so with the help of numerous interested parties and several months of meetings. The Board adopted the rules defining effectiveness on November 9, 2011, and the General Assembly approved them during the 2012 legislative session. The definition of effectiveness includes a detailed matrix of standards and elements that teachers and principals must meet to be considered “effective” for the purposes of performance evaluation and, consequently, the acquisition or loss of nonprobationary status. Local school boards may adopt their own standards related to effectiveness, so long as those standards meet or exceed the standards developed by the Board. It is important to note that effectiveness measures must take into account diverse factors in a teacher’s classroom, such as special education, student mobility, and students classified as high-risk.
In addition to creating a detailed definition of “effectiveness”, the Board also established by rule four “Performance Effectiveness Ratings” — Highly Effective, Effective, Partially Effective, and Ineffective — along with the implications of each rating for the acquisition or loss of nonprobationary status. A teacher who receives an Ineffective rating may appeal that rating according to procedures set forth in the Board rules.
A detailed timeline for implementing the new performance evaluation system based on educator effectiveness was established in S.B. 10-191 (now § 22-9-105.5 (10), C.R.S.). The timeline calls for a gradual implementation, with statewide implementation beginning with the 2014-15 school year. From that year forward, demonstrated effectiveness or ineffectiveness shall be considered in the acquisition or loss of nonprobationary status.