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School leadership ranks second only to classroom instruction among school-based factors that influence student achievement, according to Wallace Foundation research. Many of the things that happen inside school buildings, when examined separately, affect learning in small ways. But a strong principal can create an environment in which individual factors have a synergistic effect when blended, producing considerably better results.
Recognizing the importance of school leadership, federal and state policymakers a few years ago began to push for reforms aimed at ensuring that each public school has an effective principal. The Colorado General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 that thoroughly overhauled the evaluation process for both principals and teachers. The bill was designed to increase educator effectiveness by making evaluations more meaningful and the feedback from them more useful, with the end goal of improving student achievement.
SB-191 goes into effect statewide in the 2013-14 school year and requires that at least half of a principal's evaluation be based on the academic growth of students in that principal’s school and that at least half of a teacher’s evaluation be based on the academic growth of his or her students. The remaining portions measure how well they meet the new standards that define what it means to be an effective principal or teacher. The law also mandates that evaluations be conducted annually, promotes new opportunities for professional development and requires that teachers and principals be rated in one of four categories: highly effective, effective, partially effective or ineffective. To get or keep non-probationary status (tenure), teachers must show that they are effective or better.
This issues brief from the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) is the first in a series of briefs that will begin to explain the new rules and how they are being implemented. The paper focuses on how principals are to be evaluated. It also provides an overview of the new law, some history behind the legislation and a short guide to similar reforms in other states. In addition, it offers some perspective and advice from administrators in Colorado school districts that are piloting the revamped system.