The Senate Tuesday gave final approval to the educator identifier bill and to the proposal to create a statewide dual enrollment system.

Text of Monday story follows:

The Senate Monday night gave preliminary approval to House Bill 09-1065, the proposal to create an identifier system for principals and teachers.

Senators also gave preliminary approval to House Bill 09-1319, the measure to create a standard statewide dual enrollment system under which high school students could simultaneously work toward diplomas and associates’ degrees. The system would replace three existing programs that aren’t available to all students.

The idea behind the educator identifiers is that they can be used in conjunction with other data, such as individual student performance, to evaluate teacher performance, the effectiveness of teacher training programs and the distribution of high-performing teachers in different kinds of schools.

The bill, developed by an advisory group named the Teacher Quality Commission, originally was proposed as a pilot program in a few districts so the Department of Education could evaluate use of the identifiers. A major goal was to gain data about the “teacher gap” – the problem of low-performing schools being disproportionately served by inexperienced teachers.

But, HB 09-1065 gained more importance after announcement of the federal stimulus program, with its emphasis on education reform. Creation of a statewide identifier program is now seen as a way to improve Colorado’s chances for stimulus money.

And, the bill set up something of a tussle between the governor’s office, CDE officials and other researchers and the Colorado Education Association over use of the data. Researchers want maximum flexibility to use the data, while teachers’ groups want protections to ensure that teachers aren’t evaluated or disciplined solely on the basis of student test scores.

Negotiations, which also involved the Denver Public Schools, went through several fits and starts, but an amendment approved by the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago has the support of CDE, the governor’s office and CEA and other education groups.

The language allows use of the data for research, contains various protections but doesn’t restrict districts from continuing to use existing data systems and programs in evaluation, assignment and compensation of educators.

If passed on final consideration the bill will have to return to the House for agreement on amendments. The bill was still just a pilot program when it passed out of the House.

As it now stands, CDE would start the program with just a few districts, but the identifier program would be expanded statewide when education officials felt it was ready.

It could be a couple of years or more before it’s operational. Private or federal funds will have to be raised to fund it, and state data systems will need upgrading for the program to work.

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster
Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster

Consideration of the dual enrollment bill got bogged down with several minor amendments and an argument sparked by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, about language asking the dual enrollment advisory board to study how to involve home-schooled students in the program. Hudak wanted to language deleted, but the Senate rejected her amendment. Several education committee members praised the bill, including Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, who said, “This is one of the most significant education bills of the session … a tremendous step forward.”

Earlier in the day the House gave final approval to a companion measures, Senate Bill 09-285. It would include career and technical education programs in the overall dual enrollment system.