February 13, 2014
As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority. You may also know, over the past few weeks, we have lost three Douglas County School District students and one former student to suicide. First, I want to say that these are unspeakable tragedies, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of these students. Next, I want to share as much information with you as is appropriate and also ask for your help.
DCSD and local law enforcement have been working closely with our most impacted schools and their communities to provide our students and staff with support, information, security, and counseling. It is important for you to know that no matter the incident, our first priority is to support the schools most directly impacted. We work together with many community partners to provide the highest level of support to our schools and their communities, and when we have accurate and appropriate information to share, we send it out to the community. We understand this is not always as quickly as some would like to see it.
It is our understanding that there is no link link other than geographic proximity between these four tragic deaths. However, as a community we need to be aware that anytime there are multiple deaths in a short time period, there is an increased risk for imitation. Therefore, we are urging our community to be vigilant in monitoring the behavior of family members and friends. We are asking for your help with this. As I am sure you understand, protecting our students requires a strong collaboration between parents, schools and community partners. As Sheriff Weaver often says, “If you see something, say something.”
Below are some of the warning signs of suicidal behavior:
- Plans are made or attempts to secure the means for suicide
- Talking about suicide plans
- Scratching, cutting or marking the body
- Increased risk-taking behaviors (running away, driving recklessly, etc.)
- Alcohol or drug use
- Neglect of appearance
- Marked personality or behavior change
- Persistent boredom, inability to concentrate
- Decline of quality of school work
- Verbal hints, “I won’t be here much longer”
- Giving away possessions
- Becoming suddenly very cheerful after a period of prolonged depression
- Feeling like they do not belong or having a perception that they are a burden to others.
For more information visit these resources:
It is especially important to keep a watchful eye during periods when students might have more time alone. This includes time after school, on weekends, and breaks. Given these recent tragedies and the pending four-day weekend, it is important that we keep an eye on anyone exhibiting any of the above behaviors or any other behaviors you find concerning. We are asking for your help this weekend and beyond.
If you are concerned about a student’s behavior or a specific incident:
- Stay with the child until you are sure they are safe.
- Report the situation to your school, teacher, counselor, principal or local law enforcement.
- Contact the National Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.
- If there is an immediate threat to your child or other students, call 911.
Over the past few weeks, we have also experienced an increase in rumors about threats in our schools. Please know we take all reports very seriously and thoroughly investigate each and every one. Rumors, even those with no facts behind them, spread very quickly and cause unnecessary fear and even panic.
Instead of repeating a threat, if you or your student hear of a threat, we encourage you to immediately contact a teacher, counselor, administrator, or law enforcement. DCSD has invested in mental health personnel across our system including, but not limited to psychologists, social workers, and nurses. They too are available to help. If you prefer to remain anonymous, use Safe2Tell 877-542-SAFE (7233) or Text-A-Tip. These have been proven to be excellent, anonymous communications strategies for students and parents. They have saved lives.
If you have concerns related to physical security of our schools, please use our Security Feedback form.
Unfortunately, as you may know, suicide is a national issue. Tragically, there have been a number of other student suicides in the metro area over the past few months. The growing concern regarding this issue has prompted state lawmakers to introduce Senate Bill 88, which would create a Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Finally, DCSD has proactively established a wellness framework that offers a continuum of services from prevention to recovery for our students. The District is also in the process of expanding professional development opportunities for staff and learning opportunities for students designed to increase awareness, build skills, and create further understanding of psychological safety and wellness.
Suicide is a public health issue. However, there is hope. With a strong community, we can be prevent it. We appreciate your partnership in keeping our students safe.
December 18, 2013
Dear DCSD Families:
Our hearts go out to the students, teachers, and staff at Arapahoe High School and our colleagues in Littleton Public Schools. The tragic events of Friday have, once again, reminded us why safety is our number one priority in Douglas County School District. Immediately following the tragedy, we reached out to Littleton Public Schools to offer our condolences and our support. As a result, we deployed DCSD staff to Littleton Public Schools.
It is hard to believe that only one year ago, I sent all DCSD families a similar letter after the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. In each of these instances, we have taken the opportunity to review our own security measures and continually improve our practices for our staff and students. As you know, over the past twelve months, we have significantly increased police presence at all of our campuses, strengthened our safety protocols, implemented a new safety committee, enhanced buildings, and implemented a layered approach to safety throughout the district.
I am very proud that DCSD has an extremely close working relationship with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Castle Rock Police Department, City of Lone Tree Police Department, and Parker Police Department. We meet regularly to review our procedures and continually develop plans to strengthen DCSD school safety through our partnerships with law enforcement. I would like to review some of the safety processes and practices we currently have in place:
All DCSD school doors are locked and/or have safety personnel at the door to greet each visitor.
- All middle and high schools have school security at their entrances.
- All DCSD high schools have uniformed School Resource Officers and marked cars in addition to safety personnel at the open door.
- We practice many drills regularly including Lock Out and Lock Down drills.
- We do “tabletop exercises” with emergency scenarios in collaboration with law enforcement annually.
- We provide district, high-speed internet access to our law enforcement partners so they can do reports, etc. in our parking lots and/or in our schools. We appreciate the extra police presence and our internet access is much faster than the cellular alternative.
- We partner with law enforcement to offer Y.E.S.S. and many other proactive safety programs, including Text-a-Tip.
- We have a standard response protocol (SRP) in place in all district buildings.
- Each summer we (DCSD + law enforcement) do active shooter trainings in our schools.
- Our schools provide free school lunches to all police officers who stop by during the lunch period.
- This year we implemented the School Marshal Program in all of our elementary and middle schools. Police officers make unscheduled, unannounced visits to schools throughout each day.
- We continually review our safety procedures through our Safety Committee, which includes district leaders, law enforcement, and emergency services.
We want to thank you for your patience as the situation unfolded in Centennial. As always, our first priority was working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of our staff and students. While there was no apparent threat to the safety of our students or staff, as a precautionary measure, our schools were placed in a Lock Out or Secure Perimeter within minutes of being advised of the situation by the Douglas County Sheriff. That means that our staff is on increased alert, all school doors are locked and that all visitors to the school must show identification at the main entrance. Normal school activities continued indoor as planned.
We also worked closely with our local law enforcement partners. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, and Parker Police Departments increased patrols at our schools.
Finally, DCSD is also committed to providing parents with accurate and timely information during emergency situations once the security of each of our schools is achieved. We did post information about the Lock Out on many of our communication avenues Friday on schedule. This included our website, mobile app, social media and Infinite Campus. Still, we understand that some parents received parts of the messaging much later than we feel is acceptable. We are currently looking into what caused this delay and are taking immediate action to ensure that all parents are notified in a very timely fashion in the future.
The communication delay we experienced Friday is never acceptable to us, and we are grateful that in this instance, the Lock Out or Secure Perimeter was a precautionary measure that has allowed us to test our systems and make immediate improvements. Yesterday, we made significant improvements to our communication pathways with the implementation of a new robo-call strategy.
We are dedicated to continual improvement and welcome any feedback about the security of our buildings at:
Thank you again for your partnership in keeping our schools safe, and if I do not see you before, please have a safe and wonderful holiday season.
October 2, 2013
Dear DCSD Parent:
I hope you are enjoying the school year.
Over the last several weeks, I have received questions on a number of topics and wanted to provide you with resources and accurate information.
I believe that this is a great school district. We have an excellent history of being an innovative leader. As such, we have traditions of innovation, excellence, and efficiency. Safety is our #1 priority. Our goal is to have our students be the best prepared in the world. Therefore, we are building new safety structures as well as new curriculum (or outcomes) for the future, building assessments that authentically measure those important outcomes, modernizing our teaching strategies for digital natives, and compensating our great employees like professionals. We know that great teachers are the single most important factor in student success and leaders are second.
In March of 2011, DCSD embarked on the most rigorous transformation plan in American public education. All great plans for change have a solid foundation in the most current research and literature. They also value expert implementation assistance as well as expert, third-party review/feedback. As part of our implementation process, we have brought many experts into the district to work with our staff, talk with our stakeholders, and inform our work.
Again, over the last year, international education experts from around the country have been part of this process. These experts include Dr. Tony Wagner, Dr. Yong Zhao, Dr. Rick Hess, EdLeader 21 CEO Ken Kay, former U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Bill Bennett, and many others. They have reviewed our work, interviewed teachers, parents, and community members and have provided district leaders with important suggestions and feedback about our work. Follow this link to download a presentation with more information.
This type of third-party review, feedback, and validation is critical to our goal of world-class, continuous improvement. It also is another way our stakeholders can learn more about DCSD.
Please understand that in some cases (like Dr. Bennett and Dr. Hess), private funders paid for their time/work in our district to provide an expert, third-party review. In other cases where there was a heavy focus on proactive strategic planning and/or implementation through professional development, community outreach, and collaboration, the district paid for the support for our staff. As you might imagine, we are lucky to have these international education experts in our district, and it is customary to pay experts for their work/expertise.
We have always been a leader in education, and we still are today. There is no place I would rather have my children educated than right here. This is true today, and given the innovations I am seeing from our excellent teachers, it is going to be even “more true” tomorrow.
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Read more about:
As you may know, new teacher evaluations are not unique to DCSD. In fact, Senate Bill 191 mandates them for all Colorado school districts next year. That said, DCSD started the process of changing its evaluation instrument in January of 2009, well before SB 191, and district leaders presented information on recommended changes to the board in May of 2010 – before my arrival. Pay for performance started in DCSD in 1993.
For many years in education, we have had what is basically a pass-fail evaluation instrument for our teachers. In our new criterion-referenced evaluation instrument, someone who was “excellent” on the old evaluation instrument, may be what we call “partially effective” on the new one. That might sound scary to a parent, “a partially effective teacher.” The reality is we’ve completely reset the bar. Imagine taking a goal post and moving it fifty yards down a field. Now, how good is your kicker? It’s not that the kicker got worse. The goal post has been moved. What used to be deemed or rated “excellent” is now partially effective, and highly effective means that a teacher is literally one of the best in the world.
Keep in mind that this new instrument is very specific. It tells teachers exactly what it means to be partially effective, effective, and highly effective. It puts the rating in their hands. We realize it is very rigorous and it will take some teachers a bit of time to hit those targets, and we are here to support them in that process with a complete makeover of our professional development offerings, a new automated system for teachers launching this July, and much more.
We worked together with our teachers to build twenty differentiated teacher evaluation instruments. We did this so nurses, counselors, librarians and physical education teachers have their own instruments that make perfect sense for what they do every day for our students. At the same time, core teachers have an instrument that makes sense for what they do for our students. It’s only been one year since the new instrument was enacted. Imagine the very first year of anything that big and different. It’s a challenge, there’s no question about that. Again, it is required by SB 191 and must cross-walk to all state teacher standards.
Our teachers are talented — some of the most talented in the world. I have no doubt that those teachers will absolutely achieve these higher levels and be able to kick that ball right through that goal post, fifty yards down the field very shortly, if they’re not doing it already. We want to continually innovate and improve in our school district. We want the best teachers in the world. We believe our students deserve that.
TOPIC: Teacher Leaders
We value our teacher leaders and their work in developing this system. Here are just a few stories about teacher leaders developing the evaluation tool, CITE, etc.
DCSD Celebrates Employees During National Teacher Appreciation Week
(Teacher Leaders summary near the end of the story)
Teachers Talk about World Class Education Target Work
TOPIC: Market-Based Pay
In the Douglas County School District, we have a long history of leading the way in education and today is no different. Our market-based pay bands for new employees are based on supply and demand of position and they will move with the market. For example, when we advertise for calculus teachers, we often get only a handful of quality applicants. On the other hand, when we advertise for physical education teachers, we receive hundreds of quality applicants. Even though this has been the case for quite some time, we used to pay them roughly the same to come to our district. When this didn’t work, districts (including ours) employed an ambiguous category (“hard to fill”) as an option to pay more. There was little process or transparency related to the “hard to fill” option. Some teachers were offered more years of service while others were given longevity when they didn’t actually have it. We believe a more transparent, consistent process for all teachers is where we must be.
In addition, keep in mind that when someone comes to our district, we have never seen them teach, so we want to pay them based on their market value as they come in the door, and then put increases in their compensation completely in their hands. We have done this through our new pay for performance system, and no one has or will have a salary reduction as a result of our new compensation system.
This system will use a body of evidence collected from our new evaluation instruments (standards 1-5) and our balanced assessment system (standard 6) to demonstrate if a teacher is highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. Currently, and next year also, only standards 1-5 are used to determine compensation. Standard 6 will be added at some point in the future when we feel it is ready – likely the 2014-2015 school year.
In DCSD, highly effective teachers (that are most effective with our students) earn the largest raises. Smaller raises are available for effective and partially effective teachers. Ineffective teachers will earn no increase in compensation. (This was also the case with unsatisfactory teachers in the past.) We want the best teachers in Colorado and beyond to call Douglas County School District home, and then we want to treat them as professionals by putting their compensation and their professional discretion in their hands. Those who are great with our students will earn the most. It never made sense to me when I was a high school science teacher that everyone got the same pay and the same raise regardless of performance. Many teachers have shared that they feel the same way.
More than 71 percent of DCSD teachers participated in the 2013 TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Colorado Survey, registering the highest response rate in the metro area — 17 points higher than the 2013 state average and 22 points higher than the district’s 2011 numbers. The results of this survey are very positive.
In 97 percent of the questions, DCSD teachers’ responses were the same or improved by 3 percent or more, when compared to 2011 (67 percent of the questions improved 3 percent or more and 30 percentof the questions remained the same). A high percentage of teachers reported that they are seen as teacher leaders in their building, that there is trust, and that they feel safe — three things we value and are very committed to in our district.
We are pleased that DCSD teachers feel empowered as leaders, are recognized as educational experts, and an atmosphere of trust and collaboration exists in our schools. These represent our commitments to staff and ultimately benefit our students.
TOPIC: Student Achievement
Our students are amazing and their achievement has never been better. DCSD is consistently ranked among the top districts in the state. Our college remediation rate is the lowest it has been in three years and one of the lowest in the state. The DCSD graduation rate is one of the highest in the state (87.4%). Our ACT composite score is the highest it has ever been at 21.8, and a growing number of students are taking Advanced Placements exams and earning college credit. Concurrent enrollment courses successfully completed by DCSD students last year saved our parents approximately $1.8 M in college tuition.
I’m proud of our students and the teachers and all of their accomplishments.
Visit the DCSD Newsroom for more stories about our outstanding students.
TOPIC: Instructional Time
There has been a lot of conversation about high school scheduling lately. I was a high school teacher and a high school principal. There is quite a body of research on changing different things like bell schedules, minutes in the day, and adding more money to school budgets. The convergence of the research is clear. The number one thing that matters regarding student success is the quality of the teacher. It’s not the number of minutes in a class period or the size of the building. It’s not the amount of money, although eventually that does come into play. It’s about the quality of the teacher – and, from there, the quality of the leader. Great teachers want to work for great leaders.
Lately, it seems like some people have wanted to create correlations and causations inappropriately. They have taken one piece of data like test scores and another piece of data like a random bell schedule and they say that one impacts another when, statistically speaking, there’s no evidence that this is true. In fact, if you look at the research and literature base, there’s very little, if any, correlation between minutes and educational success. The success of our students is because we have phenomenal teachers. It’s not about having three more minutes in the period, or three fewer minutes in the period. Great teachers make the best of absolutely everything that they have. They maximize every minute with students and they go beyond that. They make sure that learning goes beyond the walls of the classroom. Students know this and they’ll tell you very quickly that it’s not about the number of minutes, but it’s about the quality of the minutes, and that’s what we’re focusing on in our school district.
Communication, teacher leadership, empowerment, collaboration, and opportunities for employees are some of the keys to improving morale, trust, and pride. While it is difficult to be perfect, we work hard to provide all of these. In terms of openness, The Sunshine Review recently rated DCSD among the highest districts in Colorado with an A- rating.
DCSD posts all financial and budget information on-line, posts audio recordings of Board of Education meetings, and provides multiple communication forums to discuss district initiatives and news.
The Board of Education does meet in executive session to negotiate real estate deals, discuss personnel issues, prepare for negotiations with ATU, and seek legal advice. Topics for these sessions are recognized by Colorado law as appropriate for executive sessions and are posted for the public in advance. The Board of Education and DCSD is committed to transparency. The board is also committed to being actively engaged in their responsibilities, and being an engaged board means that they must spend time understanding issues in these categories, deliberating, and providing input.
I am very frustrated as a superintendent and as a parent with the amount of testing being done to our children. First, let me say that I absolutely believe in accountability for student growth and achievement. There is no question that students, parents, teachers, and leaders should understand the growth and achievement of each and every student on the most important outcomes we teach. Great teachers believe this too. They value data that informs their instruction – that helps them teach students differently depending on their abilities. They also value data that shows whether students are learning what we believe we are teaching. Our great teachers care very deeply about the progress of our students.
However, great teachers, leaders, and I agree that accountability gone wrong is bad for our students. In fact, I would argue that bad accountability is worse than no accountability. What is accountability gone wrong? It is over-testing students with assessments that do not authentically measure the most important outcomes we teach. Here is why this is bad.
- Overuse of assessments that measure low-level skills instead of higher-order thinking skills/information are not in the best interests of our students. It sends a signal to our teachers and our students that these low level items are the most important things they need to learn. Teachers react focusing on the skills that are tested instead of the higher-level skills (because they are not measured). These low-level knowledge/skills can become the default curriculum in our classrooms, and this is bad for our kids!
- Not all students learn or test the same way. Tests that overuse multiple choice and rely more on memorization than reasoning and problem-solving produce limited data about the full picture of a student’s performance. This data can end up being used inappropriately to judge and sort the students. Whether we realize it or not, our children understand very well when they have been sorted into the bad spelling group or the low vocabulary group, and this can become part of their self-image. When it does, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever heard your child say, I’m one of the dumb kids? If you have, that is a problem. If you hear this, always take a minute to tell your children that one test on one day does not define who they are or that at which they are good. As you know, believing you can is a very important component of success.
- Overuse of tests that measure in one way can send teachers and parents down the wrong path. Imagine a bad medical test that sends your doctor down the wrong course of treatment. This is no different. Great teachers want all children to be successful and they use whatever resources they have available to help them make the right decisions regarding a child’s academic experience. Sometimes assessments given to young children, in particular, are wrong. They are wrong because the real issue might have been the child’s inability to use a computer mouse correctly rather than the child’s skill and knowledge about the learning. Vocabulary tests measure words you don’t know, not the words you do know. Writing tests have chronically had scoring issues. Math tests often depend on the sequence of course your child has taken and where he/she happens to be in that sequence.
I would recommend Alfie Kohn’s book, The Case against Standardized Testing, Raising the Bar and Ruining the Schools if you would like to read more about the consequences of “bad” tests.
I would also recommend Tony Wagner’s, Creating Innovators and Yong Zhao’s, World Class Learners. I think both of these help parents and educators alike understand the education their students need to be successful in the 21st century.
You’re probably wondering why we don’t just use assessments that measure high level skills. Well, that is our goal! However, recent legislation like READ Act, SB191, SB212, and SB163 and their associated rules set by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) require us to overuse assessments focused on low level skills because, in some cases, they are the only ones on the “approved” lists. This is particularly true with the newly approved (last year) version of the READ act. Then, we have our own GOOD assessments that we believe measure the most important things we teach and they measure them the right way. So here are our choices:
A) Give only the state required tests that if used in the best interest of students are mostly useless.
B) Give the state required tests AND the assessments that measure the most important learning, but that means we are spending way too much time on testing in our schools.
We believe there should be an option C — to give only good tests that not only meet the spirit of these laws, but to exceed them by giving and using quality, performance assessments that don’t feel like tests to our students — tests that are developmentally appropriate for our students. Our teachers need the flexibility to create and use quality assessments aligned to our high-level outcomes that are appropriate for their students instead of being forced to give these other assessments.
Right now, most schools are choosing option B because it is the least of the two evils, but we are not satisfied with that option. We are prepared to demonstrate how our balanced assessment system using quality formative, interim, and summative performance assessments (created/selected by teachers and schools who know their students best), should be the accountability 2.0 system for Douglas County School District. Please let us know if you would like to help.
May 3, 2013
Dear DCSD Families:
As we enter the homestretch of school year, it seems like the perfect time to bring you up to speed on several topics that may be of interest to you. In addition to an update of our many accomplishments this year, I also want to dispel a few rumors that may be floating around.
First, it has been another incredible year in Douglas County School District (DCSD). As I recently completed my draft of our two-year strategic plan update, I was simply amazed at all we have accomplished together. In the near future, you will be receiving an abbreviated, user-friendly version of our two-year update with a link or code to the entire document – the original is approximately 26 pages. If you have a chance to read it, I think you will be as excited as I am about both the work completed and the work ahead for our students.
TELL Survey Results
More than 71% of DCSD teachers participated in the 2013 TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Colorado Survey, registering the highest response rate in the metro area.— 17 points higher than the 2013 state average and 22 points higher than the district’s 2011 numbers. The results of this survey are very positive. In over 60% of the questions, DCSD teachers’ responses were more positive – went up by 3% or more, than in 2011. High percentages of teachers (over 80%) reported that they are seen as teacher leaders, that there is trust, and that they feel safe- three things we value and are very committed to in our district. DCSD teacher satisfaction also significantly outpaced the state average on 75 of 97 data points (lower on only 7 points).
We are pleased that DCSD teachers feel empowered as leaders are recognized as educational experts, and an atmosphere of trust and collaboration exists in our schools. These represent our commitments to staff and ultimately benefit our students.
New Outcomes for Our Students
Over the past year, we have reimagined and reinvented our K-12 curriculum in the core areas and many elective areas. We have reexamined who our students are (digital natives), and we have identified the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful in their lifetimes by studying both the current research and literature on this topic. We also synthesized the desired attributes of some of America’s top businesses like Nike, Google, Apple, Intel, and many others. Our teachers have taken this information and created new learning progressions for K-12 by grade level and course that will make our students the best prepared in the world.
New Quality, Performance Assessments for Our Students
Identifying the most important outcomes that our students need to develop and learn is not enough, so we did not stop there. Hundreds of our teachers have worked together to not only design the outcomes but to create high quality assessments to measure them too. As you know, tests are not in short supply, but they have not and do not measure some of the most important knowledge and skills that our students will need to be successful in their lifetimes. While we understand the need for accountability and showing our stakeholders how well our students are doing, it doesn’t make sense to measure that which is unimportant. Assessments that measure what is important do not really exist. There are a few summative assessments like PISA for Schools and NWRA that do measure some of the important skills, but we need more options for our teachers. Together we are building them.
New Teaching Strategies & New Professional Development for Our Teachers
In addition to new outcomes for students and new assessments that measure them, we are rethinking how we teach. Our students are so dramatically different than we were and we know so much more now than we ever have before regarding the best ways to create sustainable learning – learning that sticks and requires no remediation. In fact, DCSD registered the lowest college remediation rate in three years. We also understand many of our teachers were trained for yesterday – before we had this understanding so it is our responsibility to create the opportunities for them to learn new ways to facilitate learning for our students. As a result, we have completely reinvented our professional development courses. All courses we offer today both model a World Class learning environment and teach our teachers how to be World Class instructors.
New Evaluation Instruments for All Employees – Specific to the Work they do for Our Students
As you can see, we have reimagined and through teacher leadership, reinvented the core of our work – what we teach, how we know if our students have learned, and how we teach. Many times, I have seen districts tinker with one piece or part of their districts and they run into all of the unintended consequences associated with not approaching change systemically. Our plan for change is systemic and our implementation has been as well. As a result, our teachers, nurses, counselors, librarians, psychologists, and many others have worked with us to create 20 differentiated versions of our new evaluation instrument called CITE.
We haven’t just created new outcomes, new assessments, new professional development and more. We have integrated all of this into our new evaluations for all staff. We have gone from simple and a bit ambiguous evaluation instruments to rigorous, specific evaluation instruments. The top performers on our old instrument may well be only partially effective on our new instrument. They did not get worse; instead, we changed the expectations – we moved the goal 50 yards down the field, and we know that with some of the most talented teachers in the country focused on what is best for students, they will definitely reach these new goals.
New Professional Pay for All Staff
You probably heard that we have moved to both market-based pay and pay for performance. What this means is that for all new staff to DCSD (all current staff are grandfathered in and no one will ever take a pay reduction), they are hired based on their market value. In the past, everyone was hired on the same scale – an outdated scale that simply asked for years of service and degrees earned. That scale has not worked for a while, and as a result, districts have tried to pay people “off step” to accommodate the problems. We felt that we needed a cleaner and more transparent approach. We believe that education professionals deserve professional pay. We knew it was time for an overhaul to fix our pay system.
Our market pay bands for new employees are based on supply and demand of position. For example, when we advertise for calculus teachers, we often get only a handful of quality applicants. On the other hand, when we advertise for physical education teachers, we receive hundreds of quality applicants. Even though this has been the case for quite some time, we were supposed to pay them roughly the same to come to our district. When this didn’t work, districts (including ours) employed an ambiguous category “hard to fill” as an option to pay more. Keep in mind that when someone comes to our district, we have never seen them teach, so we want to pay them based on their market value as they come in the door, and then put increases in their compensation completely in their hands. We have done this through our new pay for performance system.
This system uses a body of evidence collected from our new evaluation instruments and our new student assessments to show if a staff member is highly effective, effective, partially effective, or ineffective. Highly effective staffs (staff that are most effective with our students) earn the largest raises. Smaller raises are available for effective and partially effective. Ineffective staff will earn no increase in compensation.
We want the best teachers in Colorado and beyond to call Douglas County School District home and then we want to treat them as professionals by putting their compensation in their hands. Those who are great with our students will earn the most. It never made sense to me when I was a high school science teacher that everyone got the same pay and the same raise regardless of our performance. Many teachers have shared that they feel the same way.
Other Important Accomplishments
In addition to hundreds of teachers working together with district leadership to build systems of the future for our students, we have accomplished a few other notable items.
- We have established a fiscally healthy budget that lives within its means.
- We have ended the practice of funding our legally required, TABOR reserve with a letter of credit and are now funding it with cash.
- We have established a healthy 3% reserve and 1% contingency for unexpected budget items.
- We have dramatically reduced central administration costs – about $1 M in salaries alone.
- We have increased the percentage of dollars going to our classrooms over the past two years.
- We have ended the technology fee to our parents.
- We have lowered class sizes in our high schools and maintained electives.
- We have added dollars back to our elementary and middle schools.
- We have preserved middle school teaming.
- We do not have any employee furlough days.
- We have preserved school and department savings and committed to never taking those for district use.
- We have phased out the extended service severance that was paying teachers leaving the district approximately $40,000 and moved that $2.2 M to fund current employee compensation.
- We have stopped paying the salaries, benefits, PERA, stipends, and expenses of union officers who were not teaching in the classroom.
- We have ended an unfunded and unbudgeted sick leave practice that endangered the health of the district budget and replaced it with funded and budgeted short-term disability insurance for all employees.
- We have covered all PERA (retirement/pension) increases for all employees. The district currently contributes 17.5% on behalf of employees to their retirement and the employee contributes 8%. This was in addition to the severance program mentioned above.
- We gave the largest compensation increase on the Front Range for FY 2013 (the current school year)
- We have saved over $15 M in utility costs over 6 years and redistributed those dollars to our schools.
- We are one of 14 districts nationally to earn the Green Ribbon Award as a district for our energy efficiency that has supported our economic efficiency efforts.
- We implemented the personally owned devices initiative (POD) that allows students to bring their own devices to school, log on to our network, and use their devices in their learning.
- We are implementing additional safety and security measures to our already excellent school safety program – scaffolding of safety to keep our students safe.
-Elementary/Middle School Marshal Program
-No-Cost WIFI Sharing and Officers doing Reports in our Parking Lots and Lunch with our Students
- We have implemented the strategic device allocation that stops computer rotations of the past and instead provides schools with an opportunity to select from a menu of devices that support the units teachers have built.
- We have implemented the following community relations strategies to get you the communication you want the way you want to receive it:
- -District Mobile App – in both iTunes Store and Google Play
-Two Radio Shows per week
-New Website – Phase 1 completed and Phase 2 coming soon
We are in the process of building a system that will support our teachers in implementing World Class education.
We have used performance contracting and other innovative means to meet some of our district capital needs without asking for additional dollars.
We have built programs with several universities to create a few, of our many, career pathways for DCSD staff who aspire to take on the next level. Since our plan for change is a leader in the nation, we are establishing graduate programs in leadership that will be held in DCSD and taught by DCSD leaders.
There are other accomplishments too numerous to mention, so I will stop there. If you would like to know more, please do visit our website, www.dcsdk12.org
I often visit with various DCSD stakeholders – parents, community members, etc. Recently, folks have come to me with some questions regarding rumors they have heard in their communities. In almost every instance, the parent or community member has encouraged me to send out a communication dispelling these myths saying that would be, “…very helpful.” Below are the most prominent myths accompanied with the related factual information.
MYTH – District achievement has dropped.
FACT – District graduation rates, drop-out rates, remediation rates, and other traditional achievement measures have improved.
MYTH – DCSD has lost its Accredited with Distinction Rating due to declining achievement. FACT – DCSD did not lose its rating as a result of lower achievement. CDE rewrote the rules for earning that rating, and DCSD is proudly accredited under the new system and new rules. It is misleading to imply that DCSD’s achievement has declined, and therefore, DCSD lost a rating. Actually DCSD’s achievement has improved. In fact, no large Denver-area districts earned “accredited with distinction” ratings after the new rules were established. More importantly, DCSD holds itself to higher and better standards than CDE. We have different, and more important goals that exceed their expectations.
MYTH – All DCSD schools are forced to choose a focus.
FACT – No DCSD school is required to have a focus. We are committed to choice. However, we definitely support our schools and their communities as they openly and transparently communicate with parents regarding the learning opportunities in their schools. We want to be excellent partners with parents as they select the perfect school for their children. Often the perfect school is their neighborhood school, and we are thrilled about that. Sometimes that is not the perfect fit, and we only expect that our schools openly communicate what it’s like to learn at their schools so parents are empowered to make the best choice with the most information available. Historically, many parents have found it difficult to navigate the education system, and we are committed to making it easy to find the perfect fit for your child.
MYTH – Lots of DCSD teachers are leaving the district.
FACT – DCSD has traditionally maintained about a 10% attrition rate. This year and last year were no different than the past several years preceding them. With the phase out of the severance program, some teachers are choosing to retire. In addition, some teachers are less interested in changing outcomes, assessments, and strategies that are best for digital native students. There is no question that the re-imagination and reinvention of American education and its implementation is not for everyone, and DCSD supports every single employee in finding the perfect fit for them – just as we believe in choice and fit for our students.
MYTH – DCSD had an obligation to pay the extended service severance program (ESS), as it was an obligation related to retirement funds.
FACT – DCSD pays 17.5% annually into PERA for every single DCSD employee — toward a very generous retirement system. The ESS began in 2009 (only 4 years ago), was a year-to-year contractual obligation, could be terminated at any time through negotiations (when we had teacher union negotiations), and was a $2.2 M annual budget item. DCSD still contributes the entire employer part of a generous retirement system (though it could legally charge employees for a small part of it). The ESS was in addition to that and did not make sense when teachers who were here teaching our students were not receiving compensation increases, and ESS teachers were receiving more in one payment than some teachers make in an entire year, to leave our district.
MYTH – DCSD took away the sick leave bank and now employees have no option for getting through a difficult time.
FACT – DCSD had a sick leave bank that was not properly funded and not budgeted. With our commitment to a healthy budget, DCSD worked to fix this by implementing a funded and budgeted short term disability benefit for all employees. This benefit gives employees tax free dollars during a challenging time. Employees are also able to increase their short term disability insurance amounts for only dollars a month.
MYTH – DCSD has an $80 M or $66 M fund balance that could be spent for teachers, to lower class size, etc.
FACT – DCSD has the legally required $13 M TABOR reserve that cannot be spent, a 3% reserve required by board policy, and a 1% board required contingency. Beyond those, DCSD had $2-3 M of a $500 M budget not assigned that can be used for needs. We have adopted a commitment and a practice of spending only the money we have – on-going money for on-going costs and one-time money on one-time costs. As a result of this commitment, when we have saved money on utilities savings or other items, we have immediately allocated those dollars out to our schools and to our staff.
MYTH - The DCSD Board of Education operates in secret executive sessions.
FACT – The Board of Education does meet in executive session to negotiate real estate deals, discuss personnel issues, and seek legal advice. Topics for these sessions are posted for the public in advance. The Board of Education and DCSD is committed to transparency. In fact, sunshinereview.org recently rated DCSD among the highest districts in Colorado with an A- rating. In addition, DCSD posts all financial and budget information on-line, posts audio recordings of Board of Education meetings, and provides multiple communication forums to discuss district initiatives and news.
P.S. Please join me and my team on Wednesday evening May 8th at 6:00 p.m. for a live Telephone Townhall. This is an opportunity to ask questions and receive updates about the school district. Anybody is welcome to participate, and may do so by calling 877-228-2184, and entering the passcode 19350.
February 15, 2013
Technology to Support and Empower Teachers and Staff
Last week, in my teacher advisory, I shared the basic design of the technology infrastructure we hope to provide for all DCSD teachers next fall. I shared it with two major goals – to receive teacher input/feedback and to find a name for it. The response was very positive, and we did generate a few name ideas too. If you are interested in learning about this, please follow this link to view a video produced by our community relations department.
It is a little long, but I think it has a lot of information that will be helpful on multiple levels. Much like the World Class Education Department’s “Connecting the Dots” video, I think in addition to understanding the technology infrastructure we hope to provide, it might help you see the big picture of world class education, backward planning, balanced assessment, CITE, etc. Anyway…if you are interested and have the time, please take a look. Also, if your department or school is using or is planning to use software to accomplish any of the items covered, please do let us know so that we can take that into consideration. Please coordinate as a school/department/team and email that information to firstname.lastname@example.org
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World Class Teacher and Staff Leadership will build the Future our Students Need to be Successful
Tuesday night there was a board presentation about WC teacher leadership in DCSD – celebrating the hundreds of teachers and other staff working in collaboration to build the systems that, in my view, will create the future of American education. See the Board Briefing for more information.
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I recently had the opportunity to meet with Yong Zhao. Like Dr. Wagner, he is very interested in the work that is happening in our district. Yong has agreed to review and provide feedback on the GVC work that has been produced here. We are excited about this. In addition, Yong is interested in us looking at his project that helps great teachers develop world class units and more. If you are interested, here is the link: http://obaworld.net
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It’s Budget Season Again – No Cuts to DCSD and Improvements Likely Coming to Schools and Staff
Each spring we engage in this process – planning for the next year’s budget with the information from the state that is available. If you are following the state budget information you know that the Governor’s budget proposal has $175 to $225 more per student for DCSD. This is good news, but keep in mind that even if passed, it will not put us at the PPR (per pupil revenue) we had just three years ago. Still, we believe that with this budget we will be able to accomplish two important goals we have set for ourselves.
- We will be able to add $125 per student to Site Based Budgeting (SBB) on an on-going basis (replacing the one-time allocation added last year with an on-going allocation) and add $75 per student with one-time money (savings). This takes the total new SBB figure up $200 per student for FY 2014.
- We will be able to fund an on-going compensation improvement for all employees. (Please recall we already budgeted for the $2.2 M PERA increase and we will be covering that increase for all employees.) At this time, and with the Governor’s budget, we believe we will be able to provide a 2% increase in compensation (1% with one-time money and 1% on-going money = 2%). We hope that this number goes up, but we need additional and final information before we can confirm anything. These are our best estimates based on all of the information we have now, and we will keep you updated.
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Updates from Teacher and Support Staff Advisories
The teacher advisory hosted 9 feeder forums. Thanks to everyone who attended and a special thanks to the teachers who scheduled them, collected questions, and asked the questions to me and my team. Also, the teacher advisory “No Limits” celebration is well underway.
The support advisory has been working on additional professional development and communication opportunities for support staff throughout the district. Here are some of their ideas currently in progress or under consideration.
- Audience tags on THINK to improve navigation
- A three-year plan for support PD in development
- Improved induction process for all new staff
- Multiple communication strategies being studied
November 8, 2012
DCSD has announced that there will be no DCSD budget reductions for FY 2014 (next year).
We have reviewed the September State revenue forecast, we have reviewed the Governor’s budget proposal, and we have reviewed possible increased costs in the district for next year (like PERA, health insurance premiums, and fuel costs), and we have determined that given the stability and excellent fiscal health of our budget, we will be making no budget reductions for next year.
As you know, last year we worked hard to balance the budget – to live within our means and get ahead of the increased costs curve. We accomplished both. We have budgeted appropriately, and as a result, the $2.2 M PERA increase for all employees next year is covered as well as basic health insurance premium increases and fuel costs. We did this by removing approximately $12 M from district leadership costs and budgets that we did not create. (We also reduced central leadership costs the year prior – for FY 2012 — as well, and that figure is not included here. I will send more on this soon just so you have it.)
You probably recall that last year we were facing a $18 M budget deficit, AND we were committed to ending years of pay freezes, reducing class sizes in our high schools, not cutting our elementary schools at all, holding our middle schools steady, and improving employee benefit packages – a seemingly impossible combination when we began. We chose to scour every district budget line and simultaneously look closely at all contracts for reallocation possibilities. As a result, we reduced central budget lines by approximately $12 M, reduced $3.5 M from our high schools, reduced .5 M from our middle schools but replaced it with one-time money, and reduced $2 M through contract negotiations – including the unbudgeted and on-going liability of the sick leave bank. We also gave a 1% raise, a 1% retention stipend, a 1% flat amount retention stipend, short term disability insurance, covered the $2.2 M PERA increase for all employees, have NO furlough days, and covered all health insurance increases. I’ve heard this was the best employee package on the front range.
Again, as a result of our collective work, we will be making no budget cuts for next year, and instead, I hope your spring budget season is filled with conversations about what to do with the money we hope to add to your schools. What a refreshing change after so many years of incessant budget reductions! I am really looking forward to that.
Please know that it is our goal to continue to add money back to our schools – to increase SBB amounts across the board and to continue to give employee raises and one-time stipends (with one-time money) with any additional dollars we receive from the State.
Finally, I know the question that may be on your mind if you are a high school teacher, and the answer is that each building chose the schedule they are running and each building will continue to choose their bell schedules. The expectation from the district leadership is that all site-based budget decisions are based on what is best for our students; and associated with that, our expectation is that whatever schedule you run, students in most classes (exceptions being band, chorus, PE, and other outliers) are loaded at 30 or fewer students per section. We heard this priority loud and clear from our students and parents, and we are committed to meeting their expectations.
We also realize that students in some schools prefer full loads, and when you have the data that show you require additional one-time dollars to fund these additional sections for students because you have a disproportionate number of students who are selecting 7 or 8 classes, we are happy to fund those additional sections based on that data. We are committed to funding the classes our students want to take. This aligns to our priority to provide our students with choices that give them the maximum opportunity for success.
As you may know, my teacher advisory is hosting forums across the district during the coming weeks. They feel passionately that we need an opportunity for folks to submit questions, have those questions read by teacher moderators, and then have them answered live. My team and I are more than happy to support them by attending the forums and answering the questions. If you have the opportunity to attend, we would love to see you there. For questions about dates and times for your feeder or a feeder near you, please see the “Newsroom” on our website, look in THINK, or on district social media. If you cannot attend, please never hesitate to email us.
OH…and if you have questions about CITE, please do see my last blog entry. I think (and hope) a lot of the information you seek is there. No employee will ever receive less pay as a result of CITE or pay for performance. There is only an up-side to employees for both CITE and the new pay for performance system. You can depend on the salary you earn right now. It will not be lowered. (Unless of course you accept a new position that is less time or pays less, but that would have nothing to do with CITE or pay for performance.) If you would like to participate in the pilot, please do email Shelley Tailer as soon as possible. This came up at the CVHS feeder forum last week, so I am worried that there is still confusion about this fact. I think people are referring to the old pay for performance system that was part of the mill levy election that did not pass. That one had a risk associated with being part of the system, the current pay for performance system has no risk to your current salary. Please know that given more time, and different context, we have reinvented the pay for performance system based on feedback.
October 2, 2012
Last week the current version of CITE 2.0 was released throughout the system. Many principals planned meetings etc. to bring their staffs up to speed on the new instrument. I know you have questions and some of you need more details than others, so I have prepared information on CITE 2.0 by category for you to reference. It is always best if we are all working from the same set of facts. If there is something I have missed and that your principal cannot answer, please do let me know. We don’t want anyone worrying needlessly. Here are the categories.
- Pay Raises (first because it seems to be the biggest worry)
- History of CITE
a. Teacher committee
c. Governor’s Rules Committee at CDE
d. DCSD Draft (2.0)
- Standard 1 – World Class Outcomes for Students
- Standard 2 – World Class Assessment
- Standard 3 – World Class Instruction
- Standard 4 – Culture and Climate
- Standard 5 – Professional Growth and Leadership
- Standard 6 – Student Growth and Achievement
- Special Education, Gifted, ELL, and At Risk Students
- World Class Education Targets for Teachers
- Pay for Performance System
- Pay for Performance Pilot in 2012-2013
- Data Systems and Evidence
- Professional Development for Teachers
- The 4 Cs Rubrics
1. Pay Raises
I think it’s important that we keep an eye on context here but I am going to first start right out of the gate and say something that I know is very important for all of you to hear.
If we have additional revenue and can afford a raise, (did you catch that first part…’cause it’s important) ALL Teachers who are rated partially effective and above WILL RECEIVE A RAISE IN FY 2014.
Ok…now for the contextual pieces and other pertinent information for those who like to understand the details. For many years the district has been paying new teachers to the district “off step.” We have done this in hard to fill areas and in other cases where low supply was a big problem. This practice (to work around a broken system) has led to inequities AND has held some of our best educators back in pay because the system also had nothing to do with how good of a teacher you were. We all know this…we have all lived with it for too long. Then, we took a broken system and put it on a 4 year (5 year for leaders) pay freeze. However, we still had to hire new staff each year (hired about 179 in our slowest hiring year during the recession) and we had to pay them, so we exacerbated the inequities. Now…we are committed to fixing it, but we have not received any new revenues from the state for several years. We don’t have the millions of dollars to dump into the broken system to create some sort of Band-Aid. We were left with very few options and since necessity is the mother of invention, we decided to innovate. We decided to push down the walls that have held us back from doing what is right for great teachers and reimagine the system. We have all longed to be paid like professionals, and this is the perfect time to make that change.
So…we carried forward with the idea of paying people more who are in short supply (an idea that is not new to the system). We didn’t want to do that in secret. Instead, we wanted to come out with the data and be honest with folks about supply and demand. Unfortunately, some people have spun this to be a negative – insinuating that this is about how much we value kindergarten teachers vs. calculus teachers instead of being honest about the bind we have been in for years and the Band-Aids that have been used to get by. We collected data this hiring season about the number of QUALITY applicants we get for X position, and what we have to pay to attract the best to DCSD. If we advertise for a calculus teacher and we only get one great applicant and that person is being recruited by other districts who are willing to pay off step we have to pay more to get that person here in DCSD – for our students. If this becomes a theme for that position, as a result of that data, that position goes into pay-band 4 or 5. Thus…the birth of market pay-bands based purely on supply and demand. The same is true of other professions.
We realize that market pay is the first step in getting our system back on track, but it is not enough. We can’t just then give everyone flat raises year after year because that violates our belief that teachers should be paid like professionals – that great teachers should make more than good teachers and good teachers should make more than fair teachers. So Market Pay is just the first step – it is for NEW HIRES ONLY and no one will have their pay reduced.
Back to the big inequities that broken systems and pay freezes have created in our system. ..The Market Pay is for new hires. It begins to fix the broken system for people entering the district. It does not fix the rest and we know that but it gives us important information that will help us build and begin to transition to a new system inside the system because it gives us some idea of how broken things really are. It does this by allowing us to compare the current pay of our teachers to the market BUT this is only one factor…remember that we value performance MOST. So…we want to use Market Data and Performance to drive a compensation transition because it is best for our students and our great teachers.
I think it’s important before getting into this too deeply to address the elephant in the room around performance. You see, the last 10 years of “No Child Left Untested” has given pay for performance a bad name – and rightfully so! Good teachers are not afraid of accountability. No way! Good teachers are afraid of accountability gone wrong – the kind we have experienced for the past 10 years. Be assured…this district is not going down that path. We are not going to use what is easy to measure to show how great a teacher you are. That doesn’t make any sense! We MUST decide what you do every day that is MOST important for our students and then measure THAT the RIGHT way before we can ever use it to assess your performance, and this is exactly what we are doing with CITE 2.0 and the Balanced Assessment System (BAS). We are identifying the most important outcomes for students (GVC+21st Skills including 4 Cs) and developing assessments that measure them appropriately! You all are doing this work! Hundreds of teachers are and have worked on the GVC and the BAS or Interim Assessments. We are committed to showing the world that we can identify the most important outcomes for students and measure them right to show how great our teachers are. So when I say performance, I don’t mean standardized test scores (although they are part of a balanced assessment system – a small, one-point- in- time data point).
Ok…I’ll get back into that more later, but back to fixing the broken system that was made worse by 4 years of pay freezes.
This year, if we have any new money, and I think we will, teachers will be given a raise according to 2 important factors.
- How far out of whack they are in their pay against the market
- Performance in the classroom
For example, if we have money (you tired of me saying that yet?), it could or might look something like this:
|Rating||Highly Effective||Effective||Partially Effective||Ineffective|
If you happen to be a teacher who was hired 4 years ago and have been frozen ever since AND you have good performance, you could be looking at a 4-8% raise! Do you see how this system works to fix what is broken? It works to bring people who are very under-paid and who are good teachers up the scale faster. This is good for teachers and good for students!
2. The History of CITE
CITE started over 3 years ago with a very large teacher committee who gave feedback about what should be included in a new teacher evaluation instrument. That committee turned into a smaller teacher committee who worked with Brian Ewart (when he was still here) and then with Pat McGraw through the end of last school-year tweaking and refining the standards, elements, and rubrics for CITE.
In the meantime, during 2009-2010 school-year, SB 191 was passed. This law says many things including that we must have 50% of the teacher evaluation based on student growth and achievement data. The law also gave birth to the rules committee which made many decisions about the implementation of SB191 including producing the current teacher evaluation posted on CDE website. So…our CITE team worked along with the state committee trying to make it work, and this summer finally gave us the teacher evaluation posted on the CDE website as our CITE. YIKES! We looked at it and we could not believe what had happened. I for one was not excited about putting a 30-page evaluation instrument in front of our teachers and leaders. We just couldn’t do it. The instrument is too long, too redundant, and too ambiguous. I, personally, did not feel that it was fair for teachers or for leaders. It is not a model rubric. We had almost no time, but we pulled together the work of the GVC folks, the assessment folks, the PD folks, and collectively worked to keep the integrity of the original CITE committee of teachers work, remove the redundancy, and improve the specificity. The first revamp at fixing it produced over 50 elements. Still YIKES! Working more and focusing on only the most important outcomes produced the 28 elements now on the rubric. Thank goodness! This is CITE 2.0, and it is fully cross-walked to both the state instrument AND the DCSD work of the past so we can show both are “in there.”
As you know, this is our last year to finalize and differentiate CITE. The law requires we are fully compliant with SB191 in 2014 and what seemed so far away is nearly here. While we still have a bit of differentiation to do (because we are committed to identifying the most important things unique teachers and others like nurses do and measure those – not do a one-size-fits-all approach. YUCK!), we are moving closer to having a quality rubric for everyone on time.
Despite the rumors, CITE 2.0 represents the work of the original CITE committee, the smaller CITE committee, the state requirements, the GVC committees and GVC Liaisons, the interim assessment work and BAS Advocates, and the Center for PD. It is backed by a mountain of current literature and research. It has been cross-walked to the CDE instrument and the original CITE committee work. Folks have worked very hard to maintain and integrate all of this teacher work.
3. CITE 2.0 Standard 1 – World Class Outcomes for Students
Standard 1 of CITE is also Stage 1 of Understanding by Design with details or more specific expectations. It simply brings in the work that the GVC folks have been doing for a little over a year now and marries that with the 21st century skills our students need to be successful in their futures. The elements set the expectation that:
- Teachers use the GVC + 4 Cs as outcomes in each unit they develop - Please keep in mind that units are big and contain many lessons that go together to teach students big, important stuff at the top of the GVC, and units proactively teach the 4 Cs. Research and literature are clear that we teach too many little things disconnected from one another. We need to teach big things that naturally hit the little stuff.
- Teachers integrate content from other subjects or disciplines when it makes sense – we call this naturally integrative. Brain science is clear that you connect more neurons when the learning is connected to other important learning. For example, if you are teaching revolution in social studies, then read and write about revolution in language arts – do it together! You don’t have to stop here either…add in science, math, technology, and don’t forget the 4 Cs.
- Teacher differentiates – this is simply not teaching to the middle – Do you provide menus and multiple pathways for students to access important learning that begins from where they are and takes them toward where they need to be? This does not require personal learning plans for each student; although that is a strategy a teacher can use to accomplish differentiated learning.
- Teacher uses previous summative data and formative data to select the right outcomes for their students – This is simply having more than a gut feeling about where kids are. This is having data to back your selection of outcomes.
- Teacher integrates other 21st century skills that make perfect sense in the lesson - Don’t teach financial literacy in a unit on revolution unless it makes perfect sense – to do so.
I know it seems sort of elementary to select outcomes before you teach, but a couple of things have sort of manifested themselves in education over the past ten years. First, there is too much dependency on textbooks for outcomes. I know as a first year teacher I depended on my textbooks waaaaay too much for outcomes. I did not have a clear understanding of the big, important outcomes my students needed to learn and the associated learning progression – I just assumed the textbook had that covered, and really, textbooks are just resources. I learned that in years two and beyond.
In addition, the world is clamoring for new outcomes – far different from the ones that we have focused on in the past. Companies are looking for innovators, collaborators, and creators. Just look at the hiring sites for Google, Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook, and many others to see for yourself. These are new – not the outcomes our assembly line past embraced, and it is important that we proactively consider what we are teaching – is it really important, are we teaching it in the right order (first things first – learning progressions), and are we integrating other content and skills that make sense? From there, we need to use formative data to differentiate our selected outcomes so that we are helping each student grow and achieve – unleash the genius in each one.
4. CITE 2.0 Standard 2 – World Class Assessment
Standard 2 on CITE is also Stage 2 on Understanding by Design, but again, more specific and improved (in my view). This is the standard about using assessment well – measuring the most important things the right way. This standard sets the expectations that:
- Teacher uses a balanced assessment approach – specifically formative assessments to monitor progress toward the outcomes selected in Standard 1.
- Teacher uses balanced assessment approach – specifically interim assessments to understand student progress toward the outcomes selected in Standard 1.
- Teacher uses a balanced assessment approach – specifically summative assessments to measure student performance at the end of the learning progress on the outcomes selected in Standard 1.
- Teacher gives students feedback – lets them know how they are doing throughout the learning process on the attainment of the outcomes selected in Standard 1.
- Teacher uses performance assessments to measure student’s creativity, collaboration, etc. AND gives the student feedback about the attainment of these skills.
- Teacher uses performance assessments to measure student’s attainment of other applicable 21st century skills that were identified as outcomes in Standard 1.
Please keep in mind that we need to do assessment right. That is, identify the right outcomes and then measure them well. The world needs a model of assessment done correctly. This will help end the love affair and misuse of standardized testing that makes all of us crazy. Dr. Morgan and her team have amazing vision for all that is possible in modern assessment. They are working toward assessments that don’t actually feel like “tests.” They are working toward simulations and video-game-like opportunities where students use knowledge and skills – create!
Beyond selecting assessments, we value teacher assessments too, and we want to create the conditions whereby you can enter data from your own quality assessments into the BAS. We know that quality is the key here, so we are preparing opportunities for you to learn more about formative assessment, interim assessment, and summative assessment. We are also interested in helping you write and use better rubrics if you need that development.
Note: the 4 C’s rubrics are developed and available. They are on the PK-12 learning and leadership site. If you want to start integrating creativity (for example) into your outcomes, the rubric to assess it is available now.
5. CITE 2.0 Standard 3 – World Class Learning Opportunities
Standard 3 correlates with Stage 3 of Understanding by Design. It is about selecting the best learning opportunities for your students that will teach them the World Class Outcomes you have selected in Standard 1. (The same ones you are assessing in Standard 2.) This is usually our favorite Stage and Standard. We love designing learning opportunities for students. That said, again, the world has changed and wants different things from us. We used to be a place that had a monopoly on knowledge, so students came to us to learn information. We also used to be a place that was preparing students for the assembly line so compliance was a key skill. Therefore, our system, and our learning strategies were all about memorization and compliance. However, today, we no longer have the monopoly on information and there is too much to cover in 13 years anyway. AND the world wants us to develop the most creative students, not the most compliant. Actually, compliance is at odds with developing creativity…
So as we think about teaching new outcomes and assessing them differently, we also have to think and plan to teach them differently. As a teacher, I am actually really inspired by this opportunity. I love to take down the walls that have boxed us in and reimagine how I can inspire students to explore high level concepts while simultaneously developing key skills for their futures. This is not easy. It’s actually very rigorous and I like that too. You see…I think that knowing learning progressions for key world class knowledge and skills, developing and selecting assessments and using them properly, and then developing high quality learning experiences that require students to analyze, evaluate, and create takes a real professional. Unlike the practice of following textbook teacher guides, pacing guides, etc. (which I find offensive to the art and science of excellence in education), I believe it takes a true professional educator to do what I have described above, and I love that. It’s amazing when you see it – it’s amazing for students when they experience it.
The expectations set in Standard 3 require:
- Teachers to use backward planning (Understanding by Design is one approach)
- Teachers to use BAS data to do their backward planning
- Teachers to use BAS and more to design differentiated learning opportunities
- Teachers to design learning that requires students to analyze, evaluate, and create with the knowledge and skills we want them to learn – the World Class Outcomes selected in Standard 1. This is probably the most often confused issue. There is a difference between teaching students to be creative (developing their ability to be creative) and asking students to create with new knowledge and skills. Now, students can demonstrate their creativity while they are creating but there is a difference. Creating is making something new with something you are learning or a skill you are developing. Being creative is about that product hitting the targets found in the creativity rubric.
- Teacher engage all students – this is about one-size-fits-one and choice! There is more than one pathway to the outcomes you have selected. How can you give all students access in a way that ignites their love of learning? If you do, the retention is MUCH better!
- Teacher gives students a chance to use World Class Tools. This is required by the state rubric BTW. What this does not mean is that every teacher has to know how to use every world class tool available. No way. What this does mean is that you set rigorous expectations through your rubric etc. and you give students the opportunity to succeed using tools like iMovie or Garage Band. Marc Prensky is a great resource if you need more help with this one. Check out his website, articles, and books. You’re not grading their ability to use the tools. Nope. You are grading the outcomes you set against the rubric you wrote and they can use whatever means they choose to get there.
- Teacher gives students opportunity to LEARN how to be creative, collaborative, communicators, and critical thinkers. You know, we used to say…Johnny is so creative! It was like you were born that way or not. Now we know better. We know that we can TEACH creativity and the other Cs!! And we must. Our students need it.
- Teacher gives students opportunity to LEARN or develop other 21st Century Skills. Again, sometimes these fit naturally with what you are teaching and sometimes they don’t. Don’t teach them if they don’t fit, but if they do, help your students develop these skills too. They are really important. Good news! Some of these fit really well in certain content areas and should mostly be taught and assessed there. Example is health and wellness in PE and Health.
- Teacher demonstrates content-area expertise. This is from both the state and the original CITE team, so while it might fit in the others, it stands alone and is simply that you know your stuff and the associated learning progressions. It’s important, but like a lot of our lower level stuff…you really can’t do the higher level stuff (elements) if you can’t do this one.
6. CITE 2.0 Standard 4 – Culture and Climate
Back to our assembly line past and the need for compliance in all of our graduates originates from the history of our traditional school culture and climate. We have long had a fairly traditional approach to culture and climate – inspired by assembly line floor bosses. Seriously though…today we know more than ever before that, like the idea creativity can be taught, comes the idea that making good choices behaviorally can be taught too. AND not only can it be taught, it needs to be taught because the ability to collaborate and be a good teammate can be a make it or break it situation for our students in their future jobs. Beyond just teaching it, we also know that intrinsic motivation to make good choices is MUCH better than extrinsic motivation to do what is right. So…I make good choices because this is my classroom/school and I want a healthy environment for all is more powerful than this is someone else’s classroom/school and I have to do what X says when X is looking or I will get in trouble. So…the idea of restorative practices was born and concentrates on the notion that we want to develop the ability to make good choices in students AND we want students to make those choices because they want to – intrinsic motivation. This is a win-win for all. Standard 4 is all about building restorative cultures and climates where students develop various 21st Century Skills by practicing (making choices) and learning from them in a safe way. Standard 4 sets the expectations that:
- Teacher creates an environment that is safe. Safety is our number one priority and while many things can be handled restoratively, there are things that cannot and those are generally related to endangering the safety of others with alcohol, drugs, etc.
- Teacher facilitates the opportunities for students to construct, understand, and practice in a restorative environment.
- Teacher establishes an environment that honors students’ differences – where students explore and respect different points of view. This means that students know how to handle themselves when they vehemently oppose someone else’s ideas.
- Teacher models and establishes positive relationships with all students.
I think most teachers do most of this already, so this standard is not a heavy lift. Involving students more in establishing the environment is key and might be an adjustment. It’s hard to let go a little, but as many great teachers know, it makes a huge difference.
7. CITE 2.0 Standard 5 – Professionalism
Standard 5 highlights the key qualities of professionalism that coincide with great teaching. The expectations related to Standard 5 include:
- Teachers collaborate with colleagues for the benefit of students. We know that when teachers share information about common students, students benefit. We are a bit of an isolationist profession. We are getting better, and in cases where we have really maximized student information by transferring important information level to level or across teams, we know that students are more successful and often teachers are less frustrated with more challenging students. This is because successful strategies are easily shared by teachers and transferred classroom to classroom as opposed to each teaching working in isolation trying strategy after strategy without success for a longer period of time.
- Teachers create professional growth plans aligned to best practices. As educators we have a commitment to life- long learning, and this is the element that celebrates that belief and formalizes the idea that teachers model their growth. I often think of doctors. We want our doctors to be current in their craft. We want only the least invasive and lowest risk procedures done on our children, families, friends, and self. The same is true of our profession. We know more about teaching today than we did yesterday and a lot more than we did ten years ago, and it is important that we stay current so we can give our students the best.
- Teacher demonstrates learning to practice. This is about no “drive-by PD.” You know the kind…you sit through some PD and then go back to your classroom and never think a thing about it again. Well, sometimes that is more about the quality of the PD than the professionalism of the teacher…no question, but since we are revamping all of our PD to be World Class – teach World Class Outcomes and model World Class Instruction.
- Teacher differentiates communication to families. This is just about creating great relationships – a partnership with each family.
- Teacher demonstrates professional and ethical conduct.
8. CITE 2.0 Standard 6 – Student Growth and Achievement
Each of the components in the system performance framework has a criterion-referenced focus, rather than a norm-referenced focus. The teacher evaluation system includes two parts, the Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) half that focuses on standards of practice and the Balanced Assessment System half that focuses on the standard of student performance. Each teacher will have the opportunity to present the evidence of his/her performance on each of the standards, the compilation of which will give a holistic demonstration of the teacher’s effectiveness.
For the student performance standard, the balanced assessment system produces a body of evidence about each student’s performance. The body of evidence for teachers will be compiled based on compilations of their students’ performance. Decision filters will be developed in collaboration with DCSD leaders, teachers and educator evaluation experts to determine the data that will be include in the body of evidence for each teacher category. The teacher body of evidence will be made up of multiple measures to illustrate levels of growth and progress toward and/or beyond achievement expectations. The body of evidence will include standardized assessment data as well as authentic demonstrations of student performance.
9. Special Education, Gifted, ELL, Nurses, Psychologists and Other Unique CITE Circumstances
CITE was created as a summative evaluation under the parameters of clearly identifying the highly effective practices of content area and classroom teachers. The core work of Standards 1-5 were developed over the past four years by groups of teachers and is aligned to the state expectations prescribed by SB 191. As you know, it accounts for 50% of the entire evaluation. The varying complexities of different teacher classifications, such as a school counselor and those listed above, requires specialized adaptation of the CITE tool. This work is already underway, bringing job-alike practitioners in to create specific adjustments to the evaluation document so that the instrument can be tailored to meet the unique needs of job-specific duties (for example, the counselor’s evaluation tool will reflect the counselor’s duties, identifying performance tasks associated with counselors, and will be defined by district counselors).
Each of these unique employee categories does very important things for our students, and traditionally in education we have tried to use one-size-fits-all instruments to evaluate them. This is very problematic, as it does not focus on the most important outcomes from these employees, and therefore, they do not get the feedback or the performance rating that correlates to the most important work they do. It makes no sense at all. We are committed to making sure that just as we want outcomes, assessments, etc. differentiated for our students, that we are differentiating our systems appropriately for our staff. We are holding ourselves to the same standards. This will be true of their evaluation instruments as well as their World Class Education Targets.
10. World Class Education Targets for Teachers
Ok…first thing’s first here. There is a bit of confusion about World Class Outcomes versus World Class Education Targets, so let’s get that cleared up. World Class Outcomes are the outcomes our students need to learn and develop to be successful in their lives. They are the outcomes of the units we write. They are the outcomes we measure in our assessments and the outcomes we teach in our quality lessons using sustainable strategies. World Class Education Targets, on the other hand, are targets for teachers. They are targets that are the best -of-the-best for our students and therefore, for our highly effective teachers who meet them, we are interested in providing a bonus.
While the high-level categories are developed, the actual indicators that will be differentiated by employee group — more specifically, preschool teachers will develop the specific targets and acceptable evidence options for preschool and library media folks will develop the specific targets and acceptable evidence options for library media folks. I know everyone wants those targets yesterday, but the reason they are not done is because it takes more time to build them collaboratively! Here is the current list of employee groups who will be building out the twelve high-level categories:
The twelve high-level categories are:
- Backward Designed Units
- Advocacy for all Students
- Restorative Practices
- 21st Century Skill Integration
- Sustainable Learning Strategies
- Student Engagement
- Parent Satisfaction
- Student Satisfaction
- Authentic Assessment
- Professional Development
- Systemic Alignment
A lot more information on this is coming so if you are interested in building them, please stay tuned and keep in touch with your principal. If you are interested in piloting the entire system, keep an eye out for that information too. It’s coming this week.
11. Pay for Performance System
Above, on #1, I wrote about years of broken compensation system that was exacerbated by four years of pay freeze and the fact the best time to fix it is now. Here is that section again in case you missed it…
Ok…now for the contextual pieces and other pertinent information for those who like to understand the details. For many years the district has been paying new teachers to the district off step. We have done this in hard to fill areas and in other cases where low supply was a big problem. This practice (to work around a broken system) has led to inequities AND has held some of our best educators back in pay because the system also had nothing to do with how good of a teacher you were. We all know this…we have all lived with it for too long. Then…we took a broken system and put it on a 4 year (5 year for leaders) pay freeze. However, we still had to hire new staff each year (hired about 179 in our slowest hiring year during the recession) and we had to pay them, so we exacerbated the inequities. Now…we are committed to fixing it, but we have not received any new revenues from the state for several years. We don’t have the millions of dollars to dump into the broken system to create some sort of Band-Aid. We were left with very few options and since necessity is the mother of invention, we decided to innovate. We decided to push down the walls that have held us back from doing what is right for great teachers and reimagine the system. We have all longed to be paid like professionals, and this is the perfect time to make that change.
So…we carried forward with the idea of paying people more who are in short supply (an idea that is not new to the system). We didn’t want to do that in secret…instead, we wanted to come out with the data and be honest with folks about supply and demand. Unfortunately, some people have spun this as how much we value kindergarten or calculus instead of being honest about the bind we have been in for years and the Band-Aids that have been used to get by. We collected data this hiring season about the number of QUALITY applicants we get for X position, and what we have to pay to attract the best to DCSD. If we advertise for a calculus teacher and we only get one great applicant and that person is being recruited by other districts who are willing to pay off step we have to pay more to get that person here in DCSD – for our students. If this becomes a theme for that position, as a result of that data, that position goes into pay-band 4 or 5. Thus…the birth of market pay-bands based purely on supply and demand. The same is true of other professions.
Now we realize that market pay is the first step in getting our system back on track, but it is not enough. We can’t just then give everyone flat raises year after year because that violates our belief that teachers should be paid like professionals – that great teachers should make more than good teachers and good teachers should make more than fair teachers. So Market Pay is just the first step – it is for NEW HIRES ONLY.
Back to the big inequities that broken systems and pay freezes have created in our system. The Market Pay is for new hires. It begins to fix the broken system for people entering the district. It does not fix the rest and we know that but it gives us important information that will help us build and begin to transition to a new system inside the system because it gives us some idea how broken things really. It does this by allowing us to compare the current pay of our teachers to the market BUT this is only one factor…remember that we value performance MOST. So…we want to use Market Data and Performance to drive a compensation transition because it is best for our students and our great teachers.
I think it’s important before getting into this too deeply to address the elephant in the room around performance. You see, the last 10 years of No Child Left Untested has given pay for performance a bad name – and rightfully so! Good teachers are not afraid of accountability. No way – good teachers are afraid of accountability gone wrong – the kind we have experienced for the past 10 years. Be assured…this district is not going down that path. We are not going to use what is easy to measure to show how great a teacher you are. That doesn’t make any sense! We MUST decide what you do every day that is MOST important for our students and then measure THAT the RIGHT way before we can ever use it to assess your performance, and this is exactly what we are doing with CITE 2.0 and the Balanced Assessment System (BAS). We are identifying the most important outcomes for students (GVC+21st Skills including 4 Cs) and developing assessments that measure them appropriately! You all are doing this work! Hundreds of teachers are and have worked on the GVC and the BAS or Interim Assessments. We are committed to showing the world that we can identify the most important outcomes for students and measure them right to show how great our teachers are. So…when I say performance…I don’t mean standardized test scores (although they are part of a balanced assessment system – a small one point in time data point).
Ok…now that you have the history and context. Here’s how it works.
- New teachers receive a market-based pay when they come to DCSD that is based on supply and demand – NOT the value of their position. We value all positions for our students. However, we have had to pay hard to fill more for years. The Market Pay system creates a system for doing that instead of a one-off, willy-nilly-behind-the-scenes approach.
- All teachers teach(of course), and are evaluated on the proper CITE 2.0 instrument for them. Keep in mind that CITE 2.0 has different standards than we have had before – different expectations, and the first look at a teacher with CITE 2.0 should be considered formative data. This gives teachers feedback about what they do well and where they need to work. It informs their professional development for the year. And by the end of the year, CITE 2.0 will be used as a summative instrument for assessing where teachers consistently perform against the rubrics.
- Teachers who are rated “Effective” are eligible for Professional Pathways.
- Teachers who are rated “Highly Effective” are eligible for both World Class Education Targets for Teachers (which may earn them a bonus) and they are eligible for Professional Pathways too.
- Since we are in year one of CITE and these are new expectations for all, everyone rated partially effective or above will be eligible for a pay raise based on both market and performance.
12. Pay for Performance Pilot FY 2013
This year we will be piloting the entire system for employee categories where CITE 2.0 is done AND where BAS is ready AND where World Class Education Targets will be completed by this spring. Even though we cannot pilot all employee categories because CITE 2.0 is still to be completed for unique groups and because interim assessments may not be ready for some groups, all teachers who are interested, will have access to additional pay for performance dollars this year through three different pathways. There is something for everyone even if you cannot participate in the pilot.
- Pay for Performance Pilot – folks in the pilot
- Development Collaborators – folks building the systems
- Personal Growth Incentive – folks taking PD aligned to CITE expectations who want to be ready to hit the targets
In addition, teachers are currently serving as GVC liaisons, BAS Advocates, and Change Agents. The Change Agent Program involves administrators and teachers in leadership roles at their sites who cooperatively learn and plan how to ensure that their schools are providing all students with a World Class Education. The goals of the program are to create a 21st Century Professional Development plan tailored toward the needs of their school and model World Class instruction and 21st Century professional development for their staff.
13. Data Systems and Evidence
Please know that we understand the types of data systems you need to really scale this project – the data systems we need to support you in it. We are well aware and want you to know that we are in the process of pulling together a Learning Management System, Balanced Assessment System, CITE System, and Pay for Performance System.
A learning management system (LMS) that allows teachers to select from GVC outcomes and various 21st century skills during Stage 1 of their unit design. They need to be able to see not only the outcomes associated with their grade level or course, but also adjacent grade levels and courses. This allows teachers to differentiate and personalize instruction to their students. Teachers should be able to see the learning progressions associated with various outcomes as necessary also.
The learning management system must allow teachers to select performance assessments associated with the outcomes they have selected from the balanced assessment system (BAS) (there must be fluid movement between the LMS and the BAS) to populate stage 2 of their lesson design. Finally, the LMS must allow teachers to construct sustainable learning opportunities in stage 3 that can be differentiated to the individual student as necessary.
The system should be “smart” and flag a low-level or unimportant learning activities or assessments and encourage the teacher to make it more challenging and/or flag a completed unit that is not aligned in all three stages – the outcomes in stage 1 are not assessed in stage 2 and/or not taught in stage 3. This system should send what appear to be exemplar units to leaders for “gold star” certification, and all “gold star” units should be available and searchable by teachers who are focused on similar outcomes. All of this must feed into the World Class Education Targets section of the Pay for Performance System.
A Balanced Assessment System consisting of formative, interim, and summative assessment choices that authentically measure the outcomes we value from the GVC and 21st century skills. We agreed with the rubric approach to assessing 21st century skills in ATCS21 White Papers 1 and 4. This system must also allow for teachers to design and use their own assessments and/or input student performance data into the system based on an assessment they have developed and used. The white papers agree that teacher-designed assessments are part of a balanced assessment approach and should be part of a larger data set that demonstrates both the growth and the achievement of the student in “real-time.” Assessment should not be an event, rather, as in Finland it should be a natural part of the learning process. We require an assessment system that is multifaceted and flexible in order to meet the needs of different teachers and different students.
As stated in the ATCS21 work, the quality of the assessment items is critical. In fact, we have already begun field testing interim assessment items in grades 2-8 math and reading. We are committed to performance assessments that require students to synthesize, analyze, evaluate, and create to demonstrate learning. We are focused on fewer, more rigorous questions that examine the process as well as the product the student uses. We are also interested in video-game and/or simulation technology that allows us to measure student growth and achievement through performance. Like the LMS, the BAS system needs to be smart. Many of the assessment items found in the white papers align to our hopes and expectations for rigorous, open-ended opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills.
14. Professional Development for Teachers
The goal of Professional Development in DCSD is to provide all employees sustainable personalized professional development to grow, maximize their potential, and achieve the District’s desired outcomes. We seek to enable employees to provide each child the maximum opportunity for success, achieving sustainable learning for the 21st Century and defining and measuring what matters most.
Professional Development is integrated throughout the entire Pay for Performance system to support teachers at each level of expertise. All educators have the opportunity to take courses and receive feedback that will make them more effective in the classroom.
If you are looking for a course on most standards and elements in CITE 2.0 please go to the Center for Professional Development website (C on DCSD A-Z). You cannot miss the giant yellow button called “Course Catalog.”
15. The 4 Cs Rubrics
Link to Moodle Course with 4Cs at the bottom to reference all rubrics. Please notice that each of the 4 Cs has its own rubric AND each C is chunked by a group of grade levels. You will notice that there are grade spans and other grades not specifically represented. We are working on that, but in the meantime, if your particular grade is not represented, feel free to look at the grades above and below and see what is most appropriate for your students. (If you are interested.)
Ok…there is more, but this is enough for now. We will monitor additional questions etc. and post new information as it becomes clear that we need to post it. Again, please let us know if you have questions or concerns. We want to support you and we realize that this is all new and we fully intend to handle it that way.