Principals, too, face scrutiny 
under new bill

Teachers aren’t the only ones reviewing their first evaluation scores under new statewide guidelines this summer.

Senate Bill 191, the educator effectiveness bill passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2010, required all school districts in the state to implement new evaluations starting in 2013-14 for teachers as well as principals. Before Senate Bill 191, teachers and principals were evaluated each of their first three years in a district, then once every three years after that. Teachers and principals are now evaluated annually, regardless of years of experience, based half on the test growth and performance of their students and half on observations of their professional abilities.

While most evaluation scores for teachers were handed out in May, District 51 Executive Director of Human Resources Colleen Martin said some principal evaluations are still being tweaked by the executive directors of academic achievement who perform principal evaluations. Those directors have year-round contracts, while principals officially ended their 2013-14 contracts in June and teachers’ last contract day was May 22.

Like teachers, principals are rated ineffective, partially effective, effective or highly effective. Unlike teachers, who need two consecutive years of bad reviews to lose non-probationary status if they have it, principals can face consequences after just one poor evaluation because their contracts can be non-renewed any year without a lengthy hearing.

“(A director) could decide a principal wouldn’t continue in that role if they’re deemed ineffective even on the first year. They do not have any rights to that position,” Martin said.

Principals and assistant principals evaluate teachers using a rubric of more than 300 standards that are supposed to help them judge how well a teacher knows the content they teach, caters to diverse learning styles, effectively delivers instruction, grows and demonstrates his or her professional abilities, and demonstrates leadership. A principal’s evaluation rubric concentrates on how well he or she demonstrates strategic leadership, instructional leadership, school culture and equity leadership, human resource leadership, managerial leadership, and how well the principal engages families, colleagues and the community in school culture. 

Having to evaluate all principals every year means executive directors are making more frequent visits for observations. Heading into the second year with new evaluations, Martin said the added work was “a key element” in the decision to fill the position of executive director of academic achievement at high schools, a position that had been absorbed by Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen in recent years. Larsen retired this summer. Out-going Palisade High Principal Matt Diers is filling the top high school position.

Directors will also have more new principals in the district to observe and guide this coming year: four high school principals are being replaced by assistant principals, four elementary schools are getting principals new to the job and one elementary school principal is switching to another.

Four of the district’s middle schools are getting new principals as well, with an experienced principal taking over at one of the schools and two people moving up from assistant principal jobs. The district is searching for a replacement for Orchard Mesa Middle School Principal John Murtell, who got a job out of state.


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