SJK Testimony for SB19-247

On Thursday, April 18th, Shawna gave testimony to the Senate Education Committee on SB19-247. This is a bill regarding educator evaluations. We’ve testified on this bill for the past 4 years, in various forms but each time included reducing the 50% based on student testing data. Several educators testified against the bill as well and former educators testified as to the repercussions of the old and detrimental SB191 that led to them leaving the profession. Interestingly, the only organizations not in support receive funding from or are affiliated with DFER. Two individuals from one organization happened to be sitting in the row behind Shawna and she specifically asked them if they had children – neither did, not surprising. If they had children and had experienced the negative impacts on their own children and teachers, they’d likely think differently. Following is the testimony.

My name is Shawna Fritzler and today I’m here representing Support Jeffco Kids. I’m also the mom of Morgan, a 9th grade student in Jeffco Schools. I’ve been testifying for the past 4 years talking about the negative impacts of our educator evaluation system.

Over the past three years, I’ve served as a parent member of Jeffco’s 1338 evaluation committee. Our discussions continue to conclude that our 26 indicator evaluation system doesn’t meet the goals of actually evaluating employees. Educators and administrators are continually seeking deep discussions into improving their teaching and better serving kids but the current system is a distraction from that task and reduces the time for those deep conversations due to the time needed to conduct a checklist and the sheer volume of evaluations. As a business leader, we never conduct employee evaluations in this way. Individual goals and coaching best serve the employee in their career and thus, ultimately, the business. In this case, the business is to serve students.

During my years serving local unit PTAs, I had parents wanting to take action against the existing laws because using the student data against educators and schools actually incentivizes educators to not teach in schools where there are high numbers of free and reduced lunch or ELL students.

I also need to remind you that the student testing data is a year old by the time it is available to use for evaluation. I’d like to hope that we all feel that we’ve grown in our careers from one year to the next and I hope you do as legislators as well. I like and appreciate student data. I have used it while working for National PTA and while chairing my district accountability committee. Morgan is currently awaiting her results on a practice AP exam to see how she can better study for the real test – that’s information she can use to help herself, she has no reason to await her PSAT results – for her, it’s just a day that she wasn’t able to participate in her engaging classes.

There are far too many students I’ve volunteered with who do not care about CMAS or PSAT, and rightfully so as our testing system remains out of control. One of my kids finished her state test early last week and was denied the opportunity to spend the remainder of the time reading Pride and Prejudice, a classic piece of literature, because somehow this might enable her to cheat on the math test – pretty silly rules.

When the data isn’t helpful to parents, is used inappropriately, and the rules become abusive, it incentives parents to opt our children out of testing. As a parent, I’m looking for the educator who makes my child feel welcome, valued, safe, and respected. I’m looking for the classroom that is warm and inviting and offers engaging opportunities and the ability to fail in a protected space.

Yesterday, half a million students missed school due to a threat. My daughter approached me with questions and genuine fear and my Facebook feed is filled with other parents saying the same thing. As state tests are rescheduled, do you think students are focused on the state mandates high stakes test or their anxiety?

The current evaluation system is an unfunded mandate, one that takes time and money from our students. The state currently underfunds our schools by over $672 million per year. This bill, SB19-247, is one step to begin protecting children.

Supporting all kids in Jefferson County Colorado