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Colorado Tenure-Reform Bill in Spotlight

All eyes are on the tenure and evaluation bill in Colorado, which has passed the state Senate and is in the House right now. The reason for the attention is not just the Race to the Top subtext, but because the bill faces some hefty opposition from the state teachers' union.

Just how aggressive tenure-reform efforts can be before they spontaneously combust remains an open question. The recent Florida situation is a good example. There, a reform bill generated such outrage among teachers that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. Crist, now running for the Senate as an independent, can probably count on some teacher votes.

The Colorado bill is somewhat less aggressive than the Florida bill, but still has plenty that makes the union nervous. It puts many more parameters around the work of the governor's commission, which is to hammer out a new teacher-effectiveness approach for the state.

For instance, the bill would require student-achievement growth to form at least 50 percent of a teachers' evaluation. It does not specifically tackle pay, as the Florida bill did, but it would direct the state education department to create a career-ladder system.

And while the bill would not dismantle tenure, tenured teachers earning multiple consecutive "unsatisfactory" evaluations would revert to probationary status and could be dismissed.

You're missing a lot of the story, though, if you think the bill is just about teacher issues. In fact, it would also put a lot more pressure on principals by basing at least 66 percent of their evaluation on a combination of growth in student scores and increases in teacher effectiveness.

And finally, the bill would require "mutual consent" for the placement of teachers, an issue that is also cropping up in Denver.

See these links for background information on the bill and a national overview of the issues associated with tenure reform here.

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