Denver Post: Lawsuit against SB 191 seeks to save good teachers


This article originally appeared in the Denver Post. It’s written by Kerri Dallman, a high school social studies teacher and president of the Colorado Education Association, about the unfair teacher evaluation law in Colorado that is resulting in hundreds of good teachers being dismissed from public schools. 

Some laws have loopholes to fix, but in the case of Senate Bill 191, an enormous sinkhole was exposed by Denver Public Schools. The district abused a key provision in Colorado’s educator effectiveness law, and more than 100 good teachers were swallowed up in the sinkhole, removed from their classrooms without cause. This sinkhole must be repaired to keep quality teachers in front of our students.

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The Colorado Education Association supports the evaluation system put in place by SB 191. We believe every teacher should receive a valid evaluation so we can improve our practice and increase student growth. The CEA has contributed to the state effort to create the best evaluation system possible under the new law. I’ve collaborated with the State Council for Educator Effectiveness for years, helping develop fair evaluations that provide meaningful feedback. Our Teaching and Learning Department has spent thousands of hours engaging teachers and administrators across Colorado to jump-start the critical conversations needed to start evaluations with a spirit of cooperation and trust.

However, the CEA made it clear during the debate over SB 191 that districts could misuse the law to drive quality teachers out of the classroom. That happened right away in Denver, where hundreds of experienced teachers are displaced from their teaching assignments. The district improperly applied the law to unfairly and systematically remove veteran teachers and hire less-experienced, less-expensive teachers to replace them. This terrible, short-sighted practice deprives students of well-trained teachers while robbing less experienced teachers of professional support and mentorship.

High school teacher and CEA President Kerrie Dallman

While we believe SB 191 has great potential to improve quality teaching, we oppose any kind of action that takes quality teachers out of the classroom. Colorado students and their parents want proven teachers, too. So the CEA filed a lawsuit last week to ensure experienced teachers continue to serve students. In addition, the CEA is working with lawmakers to introduce legislation that would not allow school districts to remove qualified teachers without the benefit of a rigorous evaluation mandated by SB 191, and without a hearing, which is mandated by a separate law.

DPS and the editorial board of this paper will attempt to distract you from the real issues at hand. They’ll repeat negative phrases like “bad teacher” and “lemon,” “forced placement” and “rubber rooms,” because they don’t want to admit their peculiar bias against good, veteran teachers. Ask Superintendent Tom Boasberg how many hundreds of first-year teachers he’s hired while the experienced go jobless. Some in the new crop are doing well, but many others are unlicensed and have no intention to make teaching a career. DPS will continue to use these temporary hires at the expense of our children until we all demand better.

The CEA is not seeking to put a halt to teacher evaluations. We filed in court because every aspect of SB 191 must benefit our students, teachers and communities. We can’t let one flawed piece of an educator effectiveness law pull experienced teachers away from our most needy schools and students; that’s a sinkhole we can fix.

Putting experienced teachers in front of the class has the greatest impact on student learning. Our legal action seeks to ensure quality teachers are kept in the classroom, not driven out.

For the original article, click here

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