As a public school superintendent, it is challenging to deal with the many perspectives and attitudes that exist around public K-12 education.
Unfortunately, some see the K-12 system as broken and inept in meeting the needs of students. Some have had a negative experience with a teacher or a principal and cast their opinion on all of the dedicated folks who work in our public schools. Some even subscribe to the conspiracy theory that we are about protecting incompetence or poor employees. Sadly, few take the time to understand the real mission and vision of the public K-12 system.
As those who have taken time to get to know me would attest, I am one who embraces choice. In Durango, there are lots of great choices for parents and students. From our many private and religious schools, our public charter schools or our schools within Durango School District 9-R, we are lucky to live in Durango. Each child learns differently and parents have a huge responsibility to select the right choice that supports their beliefs and their principles.
During the past decade, Colorado has led the charge in K-12 education reform. Many know little about the responsibilities and the accountability placed upon a public-school educator. In the past five years alone, sweeping legislation has passed.
In 2008, Colorado passed legislation (Senate Bill 08-212) that led to the adoption of new, rigorous standards shifting learning from the simple memory of facts or process to a need to master skills and concepts and apply them to real world. In Durango, these standards are now being implemented. This is a new learning that is less about spelling tests and more about using information to think critically and solve problems.
In 2009, Colorado passed legislation (SB 09-163) that lead to new accountability measures that track the learning of all students and ensures that even students from poverty, those with special needs and those significantly behind make the necessary growth to be proficient graduates. This has led to what some believe to be high stress levels in public education. I would ask – how many companies don’t have quality checks to ensure that their product or service is effective? While these systems shine a light on our weaknesses, they allow us to take necessary action to improve. Unlike our private colleagues, our deficiencies are public.
In 2010, Colorado passed legislation (SB 10-191) transforming how teachers are supported and evaluated. Before this legislation, teachers were evaluated once every three years. We assumed that teachers came with all the skills necessary to be effective. Think about sports players who receive feedback only once every three years. Do you think they’d be successful?
This legislation requires teachers be evaluated annually and that student achievement be considered when determining a teacher’s effectiveness. In Durango, teachers are provided feedback and coaching through numerous opportunities during the school year ensuring that new teachers become good teachers and good teachers become great. The law also ensures that poor performing teachers receive support, and when necessary are removed from our system.
Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Daniel Snowberger welcomes comments at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.