National group criticizes teacher evaluations — including Idaho’s

In 28 states — including Idaho — teachers can earn an evaluation score of “effective,” even if a teacher scores low on student growth measures.

That’s a key finding from a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

Titled “Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises,” the report focuses on the 30 states that include student growth as a significant factor in teacher evaluations.

In Idaho, student growth counts for a third of a teacher’s evaluation. However, a teacher does not need to meet these growth goals in order to be graded as effective, according to the NCTQ’s Idaho snapshot.

State officials did not dispute the NCTQ’s findings — although, technically, “effective” is not among Idaho’s four evaluation grades. Teachers can receive one of four grades: distinguished, proficient, basic or unsatisfactory. In 2015-16, 91.3 percent of Idaho’s teachers received scores of distinguished or proficient, according to data reported to the State Department of Education.

Only two states — Indiana and Kentucky — require students to meet student growth benchmarks in order to receive a grade of effective.

“States should not, as a matter of policy, strive to give more teachers poor ratings,” said Elizabeth Ross, NCTQ’s managing director of state policy. “However, if all teachers are labeled effective, then schools, districts, and states cannot use evaluation results to intervene to support teachers who would benefit from more help.”

Teacher evaluations are a sensitive topic in Idaho, as the Legislature considers putting $62 million into the third year of its five-year “career ladder” plan to boost teacher pay. For school districts that choose to adopt the career ladder framework, teacher pay raises are tied in part to evaluation scores. Even for districts that do not adopt the career ladder — and instead put the state’s money into the district’s salary schedule — the $62 million would be divvied up based on local evaluation scores.

Idaho Education News has reported since June 2015 on inaccuracies in evaluation data. Among other problems, dozens of districts and charter schools deliberately and falsely reported identical evaluation grades for all of their teachers.

Gov. Butch Otter is seeking $2.5 million to provide training for school administrators who conduct evaluations; legislative budget-writers took their first look at this proposal Tuesday.

NCTQ describes itself as a “nonpartisan research and policy group, committed to modernizing the teaching profession and based on the belief that all children deserve effective teachers.”

Disclosure: The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is among the National Council on Teacher Quality’s funders. Idaho Education News is funded through a grant from the Albertson Foundation.

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