Minority students are less likely to have teachers rated effective, data show

Eighty-two percent of teachers and 74 percent of principals in schools with the highest minority populations were rated effective.

The sun rises over Denver, as seen from Denver Public Schools' Hilltop Bus Terminal, the mothership of their daily logistics operation. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat 

An overwhelming majority of Colorado teachers and principals received the state’s two highest evaluation ratings during the 2014-15 school year, according to data released Monday.

But by at least one measure, the state’s most at-risk students were less likely to have teachers or principals with those high marks — another example of a disparity in schools based on factors including students’ race and family income.

About 88 percent of teachers and 83 percent of principals received one of the state’s top two ratings.

Colorado schools with the highest concentration of minority students had fewer teachers and principals rated as effective or higher compared to schools with the smallest minority populations.

Eighty-two percent of teachers and 74 percent of principals in schools with the highest minority populations were rated effective. Meanwhile, in schools with the smallest minority population, 91 percent of teachers and 87 percent of principals were rated effective.

Monday’s release comes nearly seven years after state lawmakers adopted Colorado’s landmark teacher and principal evaluation system with bipartisan support. The 2014-15 school year was the first year it was fully in effect.

Colorado’s evaluation system became a national model to many education reform advocates because it links a teacher’s rating to student performance. But the system has been under constant attack from teachers unions and some Democratic lawmakers. Among other criticisms, opponents believe teachers have too little control over how a student performs on standardized tests.

The evaluation system requires that teachers and principals receive an annual review. The ratings measure factors such as how well teachers know their content areas and how they manage their classrooms, based on observation.

The most controversial measure is student growth data. Student growth measures how much a student learns year-over-year compared to their academic peers. While each school district gets to decide how to measure growth, the law suggests using results from the state’s annual math and English tests.

School districts were required to measure and report student growth during the 2014-15 school year, but the results did not have to factor into a teacher’s overall rating. That led to some confusion, and some districts did not report growth, state officials said.

Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, all evaluations must include student growth data.

Because school districts have great discretion over how teacher and principal evaluations are carried out, the state cautioned against comparing districts’ results.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.