Hickenlooper signs new rules for evaluating teachers, principals into law

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DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Wednesday signed into law new rules for evaluating teachers and principals that stem from the controversial teacher tenure law approved by the legislature in 2009, Senate Bill 191.

While debate over that law, which sought to evaluate and reward teachers and principals based less on experience and more on their overall effectiveness, ripped apart the House Democratic caucus and marked a bitter end to the 2009 legislative session, the new rules, hashed out over several months by a coalition of stakeholders, was approved by all but one member of this year’s General Assembly.

“Ninety-nine of the 100 lawmakers in this building voted in favor of these rules,” said Hickenlooper Wednesday. “Only in Colorado.”

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, who authored and sponsored Senate Bill 191 in 2009, his first session in the legislature, heralded the new rules.

“The coalition behind these rules is now broader and deeper than it was before,” Johnston said.

S.B. 191 mandated that the rules be in place by Wednesday, which explains the fast-tracking of the bill, House Bill 1001, through the House and Senate, where lawmakers approved it Tuesday without debate on a unanimous vote.

Elements of the new evaluation system are being pilot-tested in selected school districts this school year and next.

The new rules, among other things, require that at least 50 percent of teacher and principal evaluations are based on student academic growth as measured by results on statewide tests and other measures.

The new system will be implemented in all school districts in 2013-14, and 2015-16 is the first year that evaluations will be used to determine if a teacher loses tenure based on poor performance in the classroom.