Professional Development: Colorado

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Professional Development: Colorado results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CO-Professional-Development-9

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Colorado requires that teachers receive copies of their evaluations "at least two weeks before the last class day of the school year." The state also specifies that professional development activities for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations must be aligned with findings from teacher evaluations.

Citation

Recommendations for Colorado

Require that evaluation systems provide teachers with feedback about their performance.
Although Colorado requires teachers to receive copies of their evaluations, this only ensures that teachers will receive their ratings, not necessarily feedback on their performance. Colorado should specify that teachers should receive specific feedback on identified strengths and areas that need improvement.  

Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations.
While Colorado has taken steps to ensure that teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations receive coordinated professional development based on these findings, the state should strengthen this policy by requiring that all teachers receive professional development that is aligned with their evaluation results.

State response to our analysis

Colorado recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations.

The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve.  Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers? strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities.  Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers.  Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.

Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad.  Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings.  

Research rationale

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next. Vol 11, No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (2011).

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Institute of Education Sciences (2011).

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see "The Deliver, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training." The Finance Project (2003).