Education policy is strengthened when educators have a seat at the table.
As Colorado’s Teacher Performance Evaluation (TPE) law, Senate Bill 10-191 (SB 191), undergoes renewed consideration heading into the 2020 legislative session, Rose Community Foundation has helped create a platform to integrate teachers’ unique perspectives and knowledge into those discussions. The Teacher-Informed Solutions on Performance Evaluation (TISPE) initiative was a year-long project funded by Rose Community Foundation and Gates Family Foundation, which was intended to highlight the experiences and lift the voices of Colorado educators in guiding the state’s future TPE deliberations.
The TISPE initiative, which was developed in partnership with the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the Public Education & Business Coalition and Teach Plus, gathered a diverse group of highly engaged teachers to inform the design, implementation and policy direction of future updates to the state’s teacher evaluation system. Educators were given the opportunity to develop and implement micro-pilot projects that explored the possibilities and limitations of Colorado’s TPE system in their home communities. The micro-pilots, along with regular teacher-led roundtables and summits, informed the substance of a final report which is designed to be utilized by legislators and policymakers as they consider potential changes to SB 191 and the way teacher evaluation is implemented across the state. The full report, which offers a set of design principles, implementation recommendations and policy considerations is available upon request.
Case studies and discussion summaries from TISPE have already begun to inform the Colorado policy landscape. Governor Jared Polis’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 includes support for the innovative types of educator evaluation that the TISPE report endorses. Dr. Katy Anthes, the state commissioner of education, believes the teacher-informed proposals must play a major role in guiding performance evaluation policy and implementation. “We know that there is a huge distance between when a policy gets passed at the legislature and when it is implemented in the classroom,” explains Dr. Anthes. “The only way to bridge this gap, and make policies more effective, is to include teachers in the discussion.”
Rose Community Foundation has long been a funder of systems-level improvements in public education. Deeply embedded in these efforts is a belief that necessary improvements to education policy and implementation must be accompanied by necessary investment in our education system’s most valuable resource: our teachers. As such, the Foundation has invested in opportunities to professionalize teaching in Colorado, empower the state’s teachers and create cultures of success for educators as they progress through their careers.
Some form of evaluation is an important component of professionalizing teaching; however, 10 years after SB 191’s passage, it is clear that certain aspects of its implementation have fallen short. “The teachers identified a number of ways that the law’s implementation can be improved, as well as potential policy changes,” notes Dr. Janet Lopez, Rose Community Foundation’s senior program officer for education. “The report’s findings suggest that while educators see value in evaluation, there is significant opportunity for improving the evaluation framework.”