DENVER — A teachers’ union that lobbied to kill Republican legislation to delay and reexamine the contentious Common Core curriculum is instead backing Democratic measures to protect teachers from being evaluated for their work performance.
The Colorado Education Association (CEA) union worked to defeat the bill last week that was authored by Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, who argued that Common Core had not been vetted to protect children’s education.
Now it seems the CEA agrees with Marble and also opposes Common Core but for a different reason – to protect teacher union members.
Before Marble’s bill was cold and buried Thursday night by Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, the teachers union revealed plans to back two Democratic-sponsored bills to address similar concerns about Common Core and standardized tests.
The union-backed bills would protect teachers from potentially negative evaluations based 50 percent on their students’ performance, on mandated tests that are centered on Common Core standards. The CEA supported incorporating the national Common Core curriculum into state standards and testing in 2010.
In contrast, parents and educators who wanted to protect children inspired Senate Bill 136 that was sponsored by Marble of Fort Collins.
One of the CEA supported measures is pending introduced in the legislature, but it would suspend standardized tests to prevent teachers from being hurt by downgraded evaluations – or even fired – because students performed poorly on the tests.
The union’s other protective measure is House Bill 1268, sponsored by Democrats Rep. Joseph Salazar of Thornton and Sen. Nancy Todd of Aurora, which would prohibit school districts from dismissing and placing teachers on unpaid leave – and would be retroactive to May 20, 2010.
The union is “raising the issue with lawmakers and calling attention to the problem,” CEA spokesman Mike Wetzel told Chalkbeat. Wetzel said the computerized tests have not been properly evaluated to ensure accurate measurements of student growth.
“Simply put, we are asking the state to validate the new assessments and provide teachers and districts more time and training before high-stakes decisions are made about a teacher’s evaluation and career. I want to be clear,” wrote CEA President Kerrie Dallman.
“The CEA is not advocating that we abandon the new assessments. We welcome the opportunity to teach our students in a fully aligned system from standards through assessments,” said Dallman.
That seems to contradict Dallman’s testimony on Thursday against Marble’s bill.
“We believe these standards are an issue of equity,” Dallman said, adding that Common Core would improve resources in the state’s public education system.
The Common Core standards and testing tied to teacher evaluations were established in 2010 under Senate Bill 191 and sponsored by Sen. Michael Johnston (D-Denver).
The computerized tests to measure student proficiency in science and social studies begin in a few weeks, while math, reading and writing would be assessed in the next school year.
The test scores won’t be factored into teacher evaluations until the 2014-2015 school year, but the union is concerned because two years of low student proficiency scores could lead to dismissal of educators.
The CEA filed a lawsuit in January to protect teachers from being dismissed from their jobs and to eliminate the “mutual consent” clause that protects principals from being forced to either hire them or offer an alternate job.
Dallman said the “mutual consent” clause in SB 191 had been used by some school districts “to unfairly and systematically remove highly experienced and qualified teachers from the classroom.”
The lawsuit was discussed last year after nearly 100 teachers were dismissed in Denver and found it difficult to obtain other positions.
The union put the lawsuit on hold to avoid bad publicity in their campaign for a $1 billion statewide income tax increase for public education – a ballot initiative that was endorsed by Gov. John Hickenlooper but nixed by voters in November.
Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the union has a backup plan in Salazar and Todd’s bill that would prohibit school districts from dismissing and placing teachers on unpaid leave.
If passed, the measure would require the school district to pay a dismissed teacher and provide a position with the same salary and benefits or officially dismiss the educator for cause in compliance with due process statutory regulations.
Salazar and Todd’s bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee on March 10.