Mark Sass, a teacher since 1994, teaches at Legacy High School in the Adams Five Star School District.
Kudos to the Denver New Millennium Initiative (NMI) teachers for their work on the Denver Report. The report offers ways to implement the Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness Act (EQuITEE Act), formerly known as SB 191.
The Denver New Millennium Initiative (NMI) unites an innovative, energized group of early-career teachers, diverse in experience but committed to making a difference for students. We teach in eleven districts in the Denver metro area with a variety of students in myriad grades and subject areas. We entered the profession through diverse routes, from Teach for America to a traditional undergraduate program at the University of Colorado. We share common beliefs about the future of teaching and learning, fortified through our unique perspectives, which motivate us to advocate for a new vision for transforming education in the Denver metro area, in Colorado and nationally.
It is heartening to see teachers committed to our profession and to transforming education.
Among other sensible proposals, the report emphasizes the use of teachers as peer evaluators. The EQuITEE Act made a significant change to who can evaluate teachers. Prior to its passage only administrators could evaluate teachers. New language in the Act will allow teachers, after being designated by administrators and after receiving training, to evaluate their peers. The Denver Report says the following about teacher evaluations:
The long history of evaluation failure has been partially attributed to a lack of effective evaluators. We believe that an evaluation system is only as strong as its evaluators; therefore, a rigorous selection process must be in place to ensure high-quality educators—who have proven their own effectiveness —are selected to serve in these leadership roles.
Involving teachers in this process is key to an evaluation process that is fair and accurate. For too long teachers have sat on the sidelines while poor quality teachers practiced in their midst. In my experience teachers would shrug their shoulders and claim it wasn’t their job to call out their colleague. Technically, they were right. But not now.
The report explicitly explains how to implement a peer evaluation system while also recognizing the limitations of resources that will need to be dedicated to their proposal. But if we are to improve the quality of teachers in the classroom, we will need to increase AND re-prioritize resources. This will mean that some high-quality teachers will be out of the classroom for a few years. Interestingly the most vehement voices against teachers on special assignment are teachers.
Some teachers are uncomfortable with being evaluated by a colleague—it changes their relationship. I think this comes from a lack of understanding of the role of an evaluator. The second reason some teachers do not like teachers being on special assignment is because it may mean fewer teachers in the classrooms. This is especially true today with the draconian cuts to education. But I would argue that quality trumps quantity.
Overall the report is a wonderful example of teachers proactively attending to issues that impact their profession. For teachers concerned with implementation of the EQuITTEE Act I suggest you read the report and hopefully recognize that the Act moves us in the right direction especially when teachers are involved in its implementation.
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