Douglas County School District board President John Carson says district staff and teachers have spent countless hours developing CITE 2.0, a new way to evaluate teachers based on performance.

The changes to teacher evaluations demanded by Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 have caused varying levels of discomfort for teachers in school districts across the state and that is understandable. In a very short amount of time, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, all Colorado districts must evaluate teachers on how effective they are in the classroom. The law requires that 50 percent of teacher evaluation be based on student growth and achievement.

Dougco school board president John Carson discusses board policy changes at a September board meeting. (EdNews Colorado file photo)

Defining what that looks like and then implementing it systematically is a challenging process. In Douglas County we have taken this mandate very seriously because we know that the most important factor in our students’ success is the quality of the teachers in our classrooms.  We also know that well-intended legislation that is poorly implemented has a lasting, negative impact on our students and our schools.

Even before SB 10-191 the Douglas County School District was working to reinvent its own teacher evaluation instrument – CITE, which stands for Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness. CITE is the Douglas County School District evaluation tool that not only satisfies the requirements of SB 10-191 but exceeds those requirements.

In the Douglas County School District (DCSD) everything we do is centered on one single thing – what is best for our students. From budgeting to facilities to professional practices, it’s our goal to do everything we can to improve the educational experience for our students. The development of CITE is no different.

We know that excellence in teaching and leading must be our highest priority, as they have the most significant impact on the success of our students. To that end, in collaboration with our teachers and leaders, we developed CITE, an evaluation tool for teachers that measures what matters most for our students.

Three important things to note about CITE are:

• CITE is the result of extensive collaboration with teachers and leaders across the district;

• CITE goes above and beyond state requirements and is built on assessments that measure the most important outcomes we teach;

• CITE is one component of the DCSD system performance framework that provides students, parents, employees and the community with consistent information and reporting on how we are doing regarding the most important outcomes in our system.

CITE 2.0 is the result of hundreds and hundreds of hours of work and collaboration with DCSD teachers and administrators. Nearly four years ago, CITE started with a large teacher committee that provided feedback about the development of a new teacher evaluation instrument.

In the midst of our CITE development, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB 10-191. A major piece of that law requires school districts to evaluate teachers with a standard tool by the 2013-2014 school year – a very short timeline for development and implementation.  The law requires that 50 percent of teacher evaluation be based on student growth and achievement.  The law also gave birth to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) rules committee which made many decisions about the implementation of SB 10-191, including producing the current teacher evaluation posted on the CDE website.

At the same time the state was developing a tool, DCSD was continuing to collaborate with teachers to develop CITE into an instrument that would align with our strategic plan, measure what matters most to our students and satisfy state requirements.

Some have asked the question, “Why develop a tool unique to DCSD rather than use the state instrument?” That is a great question, with a simple answer: the state evaluation did not meet the quality criteria we hold for assessments in our district, and therefore, we did not feel it was appropriate to ask our teachers or leaders to use it.  The final state instrument is 37 pages long and includes many ambiguous terms and redundancies. The DCSD CITE model is streamlined and clearly defines our expectations for our teachers – expectations grounded in the best practices for our students that are found in educational research and literature.

CITE is also an important component in the DCSD pay-for-performance system.  The system celebrates amazing educators and employees for their great work. Ultimately, teachers who are effective and highly effective will have opportunities for pay increases. Those who are not effective will receive feedback and training to improve their skills. Opportunities for professional development through coaching and training will, however, be available to all employees, ensuring that even those employees who are exemplary become examples for others in their field.

We know that there is a work yet to be done to fully complete the project in time to comply with the timeline established by SB 10-191.  While some have expressed trepidation that the system is not completely built, the feedback we are receiving from many teachers is that they are excited to be part of the development process. We are doing this the right way given the timeline we have under SB 10-191. We know that our efforts will make CITE a better, more intelligent teacher evaluation system that will benefit our students.

In DCSD, we are measuring the most important things teachers teach, and we are using a body of evidence that includes student work to measure teacher performance.

About the author

John Carson and his wife Eileen have three children and have lived in Highlands Ranch since 2002. John Carson is vice president and general counsel for Cherry Creek Mortgage Company in Greenwood Village. He formerly served as the Rocky Mountain regional director for the U.S. Development of Housing and Urban Development under President George W.Bush. Carson attended Green Mountain High School in Lakewood.