Colorado Education Association wants to help shape new "educator effectiveness" rules

On Monday morning, the Colorado Department of Education will launch its Educator Effectiveness Project.

It's an undertaking made possible by $1 million in grants secured this summer.

The project will focus on coming up with statewide goals, policies and data systems to aid in boosting the effectiveness of teachers, a main component of the national Race to the Top education grant program, in which Colorado is currently a finalist.

But "educator effectiveness" has been a touchy subject this year, with the massive Colorado Education Association mounting a vigorous campaign against a bill aimed at upping the ante on teacher tenure by requiring veteran teachers to be evaluated every year instead of every three and tying half of their evaluation to whether their students are showing academic progress. If they're not, tenured teachers could lose that status.

Now that the bill has passed, however, the union says it wants in on the conversation. "We are not sitting in the corner and sucking our thumb saying, 'We don't like this. We're not going to play,'" says CEA spokeswoman Deborah Fallin. "We want effective evaluations."

It's now up to the fifteen-member Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness to come up with exactly how the new law will be implemented. But though their work is vast, the $1 million in grant money won't go directly toward supporting it.

Instead, the money will be split between three organizations: the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Legacy Foundation and The New Teacher Project, a national nonprofit that's been working with Colorado. And what, exactly, will they do with it?

"There are a lot of funds that the state administers," explains Nina Lopez, the director of educator effectiveness for the Colorado Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit with ties to CDE.

"We approve plans for their use that the districts submit. This gives us an opportunity to look at those plans and say, 'It doesn't look like the way you intend on using these funds is going to get you what you need. You might want to amend the plan to do this or that before we approve the use of these funds.'"

CDE also plans to take a hard look at the state's teacher preparation programs, which it accredits, and at teacher licensing. Part of the $1 million will be used to hire a full-time teacher on staff at CDE to assist in the process and serve as a voice for teachers statewide.

"We're not just saying, 'Here's something we're going to do to you,'" Lopez says. "But we're making sure the preparation teachers get prepares them well for changing demands that will be placed on them."

And the demands, they are a-changin'.