Saturday, February 7, 2009

Report on Colorado's Teacher Retention Policies

This 2008 report excerpt from the National Council on Teacher Quality is interesting to me since I live in Colorado and favor policies that will promote retention of effective teachers:
How is Colorado Faring?

Area 1: D- [Note: Most grades in the report are low. Only one A was given out of 151 grades.]
Identifying effective teachers

Colorado’s policies regarding the identification of effective teachers are sorely lacking. The state has only two of the three necessary elements for the development of a student- and teacher-level longitudinal data system, and Colorado’s requirements regarding teacher evaluations are too ambiguous to ensure the use of objective measures such as standardized tests as evidence of student learning. Colorado’s probationary period for new teachers is just three years, and the state does not require any meaningful process to evaluate cumulative effectiveness in the classroom before teachers are awarded tenure.

Area 2: C-
Retaining effective teachers

Colorado requires that all new teachers receive mentoring. The state’s requirements for a nonprobationary license are more reasonable than those in many states; however, Colorado does not base advancement on specific evidence of teacher effectiveness. The state gives districts authority for how teachers are paid and has differential pay for teachers working in high-needs schools, but its other policies regarding teacher compensation need improvement. Colorado does not support retention bonuses, compensation for relevant prior work experience, differential pay for teachers working in shortage subject areas or performance pay. In addition, the state provides only a defined benefit pension plan for teachers. While Colorado offers teachers leaving the system more flexibility than most states, its pension policies are not fair to all teachers. Further, retirement benefits are determined by a formula that is not neutral, meaning that pension wealth does not accumulate uniformly for each year a teacher works.

Area 3: B
Exiting ineffective teachers

Although Colorado requires new teachers to be formally evaluated only once a year, it does require that teachers, regardless of employment status, who receive an unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on an improvement plan and then made eligible for dismissal if they do not improve. Commendably, the state also requires that all teachers pass all required subject-matter tests as a condition of initial licensure.

Overall Performance: C-
I am surprised that there is no additional compensation provided for relevant prior work experience. Surely that should be a factor in setting teacher pay if we want more to attract and retain more experienced teachers in Colorado.

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