Classrooms at Calhan High School on March 15, 2022. Calhan High serves upward of 400 students from preschool to 12th grade. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

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Teacher evaluation is getting an update in Colorado, more than a decade after the state last overhauled its system. 

Starting with the 2023-24 school year, students’ standardized test scores will play a smaller role in teachers’ ratings, rubrics will be more specialized to reflect different jobs, and teachers with consistently high scores will face less scrutiny.

If it works as supporters hope, the system will focus more on helping teachers grow and improve. That contrasts with the current system, which many educators perceive as punitive and which hasn’t improved student achievement much — at least as measured by test scores.

With the updated evaluation system in Senate Bill 70, signed last week, Colorado joins a growing list of states moving away from practices the Obama administration hoped would improve schools. 

The previous law, known as Senate Bill 191, called for teachers’ job performance to be measured half by student academic growth and half by classroom observation of professional practices such as showing a strong understanding of the content and delivering effective instruction. 

Districts could use various academic data to show student growth, but at least 1% of every teacher’s evaluation had to be linked to standardized test scores. Often it was much higher than that. Teachers particularly resented the use of collective measures, in which an art teacher might be rated based on how students at her school or in her district did on reading and math tests.


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...