Updated 5:30 p.m. March 30 – As expected, the use of review panels was the top issue Friday when the State Board of Education held a public hearing on proposed rules for teachers who appeal low ratings under the new educator effectiveness law.

Teacher evaluationThe State Council for Educator Effectiveness, which developed the original recommendations for the appeals process, suggested that review panels of teachers and administrators participate in hearing appeals from teachers who face loss of non-probationary job status because of low evaluations.

The draft rules prepared by Department of Education staff specify only that using review panels be part of a state model appeals system that districts would have the option to use.

The proposed rules would give districts flexibility in handling appeals as long as they followed basic state requirements (see below). The law that created the new evaluation system specifies every district provide an appeals process and that a superintendent has the final say on appeals.

Board members Paul Lundeen and Debora Scheffel wondered if the option of review panels needed to be mentioned in the rules at all, given that districts would have enough flexibility setting up their own systems that they could use panels anyway if they chose.

Representatives of the effectiveness council and several education interest groups testified to the board, for the most part emphasizing points made in earlier written comments. (See links to those comments below.)

There are also shades of opinion about the length of the appeals process and what grounds could be considered. But board members and witnesses seemed agreeable to the 45-day timeline in the proposed rules and to the suggested grounds for appeal. (Read proposed rules here.)

CDE staff will revise the rules for board consideration at an April 11-12 meeting, when SBE will vote on a final version.

It was noted Friday that the rules are silent on what happens to a teacher who wins an appeal. Deputy Commissioner Diana Sirko said the staff would work on that. Board member Angelika Schroeder also suggested language about confidentiality of appeals hearing should be added.

The rules would apply to non-probationary teachers who have received two annual consecutive evaluations of ineffective or partially effective.

Major issues raised in written comments on the proposed rules include the role of teacher-administrator committees in the system, the length of the appeals process and the scope of what can be appealed.

The proposed appeals regulations are the last piece in the overall package of regulations intended to implement Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark law that requires annual evaluations of teachers and principals, bases 50 percent of evaluations on student growth as indicated by CSAP/TCAP tests and other measures, and requires ineffective teachers be returned to probationary status.

Elements of the system are being tested in selected districts, but the law doesn’t go into effect statewide until 2014-15.

Discussion the appeals process kicked into high gear in early February, when the State Council for Educator Effectiveness submitted its recommendations to the SBE. Under SB 10-191, the appointed council has a major role in designing the evaluation system, although the board has the legal rule-making authority.

A key element of the council’s suggestions was that panels of teachers and administrators be allowed to play a role in reviewing appeals. (Read the council’s original letter here and its full recommendations here. The council’s most recent comments are in this package of documents.)

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is supporting the council’s recommendations on the appeals process. (See CEA letter on the issue here.)

But the law’s sponsors, some SBE members, major education interest groups like the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives and a coalition of reform and business groups have questioned the use of panels and want to make certain that superintendents have the final say on appeals. As drafted by Department of Education staff, review panels would be included as one option in a state model appeals process that districts could choose to use. The panels would be strictly advisory.

What’s next
  • SBE will adopt a final version of the rules at its April 11-12 meeting.
  • The rules have to be reviewed by the legislature, which must adjourn by May 9.

The council originally proposed a 90-day appeals process, matching provisions of SB 10-191.

Several individuals and groups called for a 45-day process, which is what’s proposed in the current draft. But the school boards group wants districts to be allowed to go beyond 45 days.

There’s also debate over how broad or narrow the grounds for appeal should be, and the school executives group believes appeals should be limited to teachers with ineffective ratings and not include teachers rated partially effective. (Read comments from CASB and CASE in this document. Comments from the law’s sponsors and from reform groups are here.)

On a general level, the council seems to favor a more standardized appeals process while the education groups support more flexibility for districts.

Key points of proposed rules
  • Effective in 2014-15
  • Apply to teachers who receive two consecutive annual ratings of ineffective or partially effective
    45-day appeals process
  • Only one appeal can be filed
  • Original appeal must list all grounds
  • Burden of proof on the teacher
  • Grounds include inaccuracy in evaluation procedures and incorrect use of data
  • Superintendent or designee makes final decision; no further appeal possible

The decision on contract renewal for a teacher who loses non-probationary status is made separately from appeal of evaluation.

Every district must provide an opportunity for appeal that at least allows a teacher to appeal to the superintendent. Details of the appeals process may be determined through collective bargaining in districts that have contracts.

CDE will develop a model system, one version of which includes a review panel and one version of which does not. Review panels would be advisory to superintendents.

More information

  • Draft rules as of March 23. Red type indicates language added since the previous draft. Red type with a line through it is earlier language that has been deleted.
  • More details on the full SB 10-191 rules, including the main body of rules approved by SBE last year and ratified by the legislature