Making the grade: Educator effectiveness rates high in Northwest Colorado public school districts

Sasha Nelson
Teachers and staff of Moffat County School District meet Monday to discuss strategies for more effective teaching.
Sasha Nelson

— The effectiveness of teachers and principals is the focus of a report released earlier this year from Colorado Department of Education that shows a regional rate above the state average.

The most recent data available indicated that 35 percent of Colorado public school teachers rated as highly effective during the 2014-15 school year.

In Moffat County School District more than 52 percent of teachers were rated highly effective, and in Steamboat Springs School District the number was more than 65 percent. In South Routt School District, the number was more than 73 percent, and in Meeker School District the number was more than 44 percent for the same school year.

Principals are evaluated on seven standards of leadership. Teachers are evaluated on six standards, and student performance makes for a seventh metric.

“There are a lot of factors used to measure educator effectiveness. Teaching is a complex endeavor,” said Zack Allen, school district director of curriculum and educator effectiveness.

Results are not meant to provide comparisons between districts because each school district customizes the system.

“Rather than comparing districts the goal is to get a snapshot of each district,” said Britt Wilkenfeld, CDE’s director of research educator preparation, licensing and educator effectiveness.

The state uses the data to determine when school districts may benefit from added support.

“We use the data to monitor school districts and compare that with student performance. Ratings changes are a flag to visit with schools and find out what circumstances might have altered their ratings,” Wilkenfeld said.

MCSD uses the data as part of the process to help principals identify teachers in need of improvement.

“They (school principals) perform classroom walk-throughs and ensure teaching is monitored in a search for effectiveness,” Allen said. “If we see that a teacher is struggling then the principal is in the classroom more often, though that may not be the only reason a principal visits often.”

Colorado’s educator effectiveness evaluation process was mandated in 2010 by Senate Bill 10-191 and is still evolving.

“This is a pretty amazing process,” said Moffat County Superintendent of Schools Dave Ulrich.

In comparison to Missouri’s public schools, “in Colorado this process is weighted much more towards student outcomes,” Ulrich said.

There is evidence that students and teachers are benefiting from regular feedback.

“We think it is making a difference. Those signs will come from student outcomes. Those impacts might not be seen for a few years. We do have early signs, survey data, anecdotal evidence, and our ratings have gone up in aggregate,” Wilkenfeld said.

Detailed data on public school accountability, performance, student achievement, educator effectiveness, finance, courses and health are available at

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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