COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Some Colorado Springs high school students headed back to class Friday and they're not the only ones hoping for good grades this year.
Teachers and principals across the state will be put to the test this year. The state legislature instituted the new teacher-grading system with the passing of Senate Bill 191 three years ago. The controversial program rolls out this school year.
Sheree Lynn teaches technology and design to sophomores at Sand Creek High School. Her students were back in class Friday. There was mixed reaction about the grading system in the education community. Lynn stands by it.
"I like the fact that it is a continual conversation about what teachers are doing in the classroom," said Lynn. "I like that after two or three different evaluations, you sit down and you have a conversation with that administrator on what strengths are and suggestions for the rest of the year."
Teachers and principals will be evaluated based on a rubric handed down from Colorado's Department of Education. Fifty percent of each score is based on school administrators' evaluations of teachers at work in their classrooms. Twenty-five percent of the score is based on state testing. Another 25 percent is based on data determined by teachers and their schools.
Scores will place educators in categories from "highly effective" to "ineffective."
It's Mike Brandt's second year teaching art at Sand Creek High School. He has concerns about the new program.
"I want to be able to have a class where I am reaching something with divergent thought and I'm concerned that the tests, if it were to test art, would kind if pin us down." said Brandt.
Brandt said he isn't worried about the program. It will have little impact on teachers who excel at their job.
"If you're doing your job, if you're a good teacher, you'll be fine," said Brandt.
He said it will be effective if "teachers are provided with quality feedback and they are willing to take that feedback and try and grow from it."
Teachers will lose tenure after two consecutive years of "ineffective" ratings. They can earn tenure if they're ranked "effective" three years in a row. Scores will not impact teachers' jobs during this first year of the program.
Adriane Jasper teachers students with significant support needs at Sand Creek High School. She said the program's rubric may need to be adapted to better evaluate growth in her classroom.
"I think anything new kind of makes people a little nervous," said Jasper. "I think ultimately, it will give you that depth of how that teacher teaches over multiple days, multiple pieces of work, instead of it being a snapshot of how this person teaching for 45 minutes on a Tuesday."
Jasper already monitors her students growth through data and notes she collects through the school year. She said the program will not create additional works for her.
"I think education needs to have a lot of checks and balances considering that we work with kids, their future, I think it can only be a good thing," said Jasper.
It took several years for state education officials to test the grading system. The 2013-2014 school year is the first year the grading system will be used in Colorado's 178 districts.