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Rural Colorado District Receives Teacher Evaluation Waiver

A rural school district in northeast Colorado has received a waiver from the state to bypass using student test scores in teacher evaluations, according to a recent story by The Denver Post.

 The Holyoke School District, which serves about 600 students, received the waiver through a 2008 law that allows districts to apply for "innovation status" and opt out of certain requirements of Colorado's education laws. The district found that when it tried to use the state's new teacher evaluation, which was passed in 2010, the evaluation didn't provide additional information on the teachers, according to district officials. Officials were also concerned about holding teachers responsible for a student's test score if that student enrolled late in the year, or missed class time.

Superintendent Bret Miles told The Denver Post that the district is already focused on data and is transparent with results. In a small district, he said, it's always been easy to attach student performance with individual teachers and know how teachers are doing. "I feel there is a genuine accountability that comes in a small rural district that isn't understood in the bigger picture of the accountability movement," he said.

During the 2014-15 school year, student academic growth will count for up to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation in Colorado. In Holyoke, principals will evaluate teachers more frequently and will look at student growth data, but will not use a single growth number for teachers. The district also received a waiver from the state's kindergarten-readiness test.

 According to Chalkbeat Colorado, the Colorado teacher turnover rate hit a 15-year high during the 2014-15 school year, and rural districts had the highest turnover rates in the state. The statewide rate has increased steadily since legislators passed the 2010 bill that requires teacher evaluations to include growth numbers. 

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