Who Is In Charge

Seeking state-local balance on evaluations

A central issue in Colorado’s year-old educator effectiveness law – the amount of flexibility school districts should have in evaluating teachers – was at the forefront Wednesday as the State Board of Education discussed rules for implementing the law.

The board got its first formal look at the 30 pages of draft regulations for implementation of Senate Bill 10-191, the educator effectiveness law that requires annual evaluations of principals and teachers, basing 50 percent of evaluations on student growth and removing teachers from non-probationary status if they receive two ineffective evaluations.

“This is an exciting day, an historic day,” noted Deputy Commissioner Diana Sirko.

A key issue in the draft regulations is whether districts should opt in or opt out of the model system to be developed by the state. The draft rules were prepared by Department of Education staff and are based on the recommendations of the State Council for Educator Effectiveness.

Teacher evaluationCDE is recommending that each district “shall implement the state model system” unless a district has developed its own system that meets requirements set by the department.

Sirko said a district “can use their own system; they just need to clearly demonstrate how it aligns” with state requirements.

“I think you’ve arrived at a very appropriate compromise,” said board member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District.

But Michelle Murphy, a lawyer who works for the Colorado Association of School Boards, told the board that requiring an opt-out evaluation system “is an issue of real concern for CASB.”

She argued that state law assigns different roles to CDE and to districts, with the state responsible for creating an overall framework for educator evaluations and districts allowed to design evaluation systems that meet their individual needs.

“There’s a critical difference between guidance … and technical requirements” issued by the state, Murphy said. She added that CASB feels an opt-out model system “clearly seems to exceed the authority granted by the legislature. … We’re not a one-size-fits all state.

“The local districts, the local communities need to have the right to develop their own systems.”

Berman said she didn’t quite see the problem Murphy was raising, saying districts are “asking, they’re begging for a model they can adopt.”

District flexibility has been an issue since the legislature was debating the effectiveness bill during the 2010 session. While school districts have a substantial measure of local control under the state constitution, one goal of the effectiveness law is to create a system of evaluations that would measure teacher effectiveness in comparable ways district to district. The hope is that a district would be assured a teacher was truly “highly effective” or “effective” when hiring that person from another district.

CASB has supported the effectiveness law since it was being debated in the legislature. But, as the association did raise concerns about local flexibility during the deliberations of the effectiveness council over the last year.

The proposed regulations cover several broad areas: definitions of effectiveness, quality standards and performance ratings for principals and for teachers, duties of local districts, CDE duties and the role of students and parents in evaluation. The regulations eventually will contain rules for evaluation of other licensed professionals (counselors, librarians, etc.), but language hasn’t yet been drafted on that subject.

In addition to the local control question, some other key issues facing the board include exactly how to define the first teacher quality standard, which requires teachers demonstrate knowledge of the content they teach; the specific definition of student growth and how districts will be permitted to measure it, and how CDE will monitor districts’ compliance with the law.

The proposed rules contain the four levels of principal and teacher effectiveness recommended by the council: Ineffective, partially effective, effective and highly effective.

Paula Noonan, a Jefferson County board member who testified Wednesday, suggested that the state board might want to consider at least five levels, to make the system easier to use for districts that want to tie evaluation to compensation. She said that’s Jeffco’s intention.

Here’s a look at some other provisions in the rules:

  • Probationary teachers would receive at least two observations and one written evaluation a year.
  • Written evaluations would have to be presented to employees no later than two weeks before the end of the school year.
  • Every principal would have a professional performance plan.
  • Districts would be required to set up Advisory Personnel Performance Evaluation Councils made up of administrators, teachers and citizens. District and school accountability committees would also have advisory roles in the new system.
  • Evaluators would have to have training, and teachers could serve as evaluators.
  • Districts would be “encouraged” to involve parents in their evaluation systems and “encouraged … when appropriate” to use student survey data as part of the “multiple measures” of effectiveness that will be used to evaluate teachers.

Charter schools, for the most part, would be exempt from the law, which applies to licensed teachers. Charters don’t have to hire licensed teachers, but Sirko said schools probably will have to detail in their charters how they are meeting the intent of the effectiveness law.

Some major elements of the new evaluation structure remain to be fleshed out, including detailed evaluation scoring systems, an appeals process for teachers who receive “ineffective” ratings and the system for measuring student growth in subjects that aren’t included in the CSAP tests.

Some of those things will be fleshed out based on what happens during a pilot period, when evaluation system trial runs will be held in about half a dozen districts. That process starts this fall and runs through July 2013.

The state board is required to issue final regulations this autumn, and they will be reviewed by the legislature early in 2012.

DPS innovation plans approved

The state board unanimously approved innovation status for three Denver schools, including High Tech Early College, Collegiate Prep Academy and the Denver Center for 21st Century Learning at Wyman. The first two schools are part of the district’s reorganization effort in Far Northeast Denver.

The three innovation applications were approved by DPS board May 19 on split votes.

The three schools approved Wednesday, as well as three others approved earlier this spring, are controversial because of the issue of faculty involvement in innovation applications. The state innovation law requires majority faculty sign-off on an innovation application. But, because these schools are new and don’t have existing faculties, there have been no votes. Instead, teachers applying for jobs at the schools have been informed of the innovation plans and told accepting them is a requirement for being hired.

The Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association has said it plans to file a lawsuit challenging those innovation designations.

Among other things, innovation status gives schools freedom from various personnel rules and procedures, greater control over budgets and freedom to choose curriculums.

Hope Online wins two appeals

Elaine Gantz Berman
State Board of Education member Elaine Gantz-Berman, D-1st District.
The state board voted 4-3 to grant two appeals by the Hope Online charter system. Hope, which is supervised by the Douglas County schools, sought to force the Eaton and Harrison schools districts to sign memoranda of understanding with it.

Hope operates brick-and-mortar “learning centers” as part of its online program, but state law requires school districts where learning centers are located to have the MOUs with online schools. Eaton and Harrison had declined to sign understandings with Hope.

The board votes require the two districts to negotiate such memos with Hope.

The vote split on partisan lines, with Republicans Bob Schaffer, 4th District; Marcia Neal, 3rd District; Debora Scheffel, 6th District, and Paul Lundeen, 5th District, voting for Hope. Democrats Berman, Jane Goff, 7th District, and Angelika Schroeder, 2nd District, voted no.

Berman said she voted no because of concerns about the academic quality of Hope. “I’m not in favor of poor quality online programs.”

Associate Commissioner Rich Wenning acknowledged that “we have a challenge” with the student growth scores of all online programs in the state and that “Hope is probably in the middle of the pack.”


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.