Most teachers receive high marks in error-filled evaluation data

More than 91 percent of Idaho’s teachers received high performance marks on their evaluations during the most recent school year, according to a State Department of Education report released Thursday.

The dataset covers evaluations for more than 17,000 teachers working in all 115 school districts and charter schools.

But the report still makes it difficult to differentiate between high-performing and low-performing teachers.

The report also includes errors, confirmed Thursday afternoon by administrators in three districts.

Evaluations are important because the 2015 Legislature passed a career ladder law that partially tied hundreds of millions of dollars of teacher salaries and taxpayer money to evaluations.

Jeff Church
Jeff Church

However, the reported evaluations will not directly affect state funding for teacher pay until next year, State Department of Education spokesman Jeff Church said.

Overall, 15,571 Idaho teachers — 91.3 percent of all educators — earned overall evaluation scores of “proficient” or “distinguished” for 2015-16.

Conversely, just 37 teachers across the state earned overall scores of “unsatisfactory” — a number likely to drop, based on errors discovered by EdNews.

The report shows administrators in 35 school districts or charter schools awarded identical overall scores of “proficient” to every single teacher. Several districts evaluated more than 100 teachers this year — and awarded identical overall scores to all of them.

Those districts include:

  • Post Falls, which reported all 301 teachers earned scores of “proficient.”
  • Kuna, which reported all 292 teachers as “proficient.”
  • Lewiston, which reported all 285 teachers were “proficient.”
  • Shelley, which reported 112 of 113 teachers were “proficient.” Shelley did not report evaluating its 113th teacher.

Under the evaluation system, teachers may earn a score of “unsatisfactory,” “basic,” “proficient” or “distinguished.” The scores are based on the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. The evaluation system touches on everything from a teacher’s planning and preparation, professional responsibilities, classroom environment and instruction.

Kerby
Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth

All told, 66 Idaho school districts or charters reported that every teacher earned a score of “proficient” or “distinguished.”

Last year, two Idaho superintendents — Sugar-Salem’s Alan Dunn and New Plymouth’s Ryan Kerby — told EdNews that administrators purposely awarded identical evaluation scores to all teachers in an effort to protect employees. Kerby also serves in the Legislature, and has since retired as New Plymouth’s superintendent.

Dunn said some data his district submitted to the state last year was inaccurate. Legitimate evaluations on file in his district’s office revealed a range of scores.

This year, Sugar-Salem administrators did not award identical evaluation scores to all of their teachers, but New Plymouth did.

On Thursday, administrators from McCall-Donnelly, Fremont County and Boise told EdNews their 2015-16 data evaluation was either inaccurate or incomplete.

The state report shows that four of McCall-Donnelly’s 80 teachers earned scores of “unsatisfactory” while another 34 earned scores of “basic.”

Jim Foudy
Jim Foudy

McCall-Donnelly Superintendent Jim Foudy said the data is wrong, and blamed a technical error.

“The error was on our side and we’re going to correct it,” Foudy said.

According to the state report, 131 of 135 teachers in Fremont County performed at a basic level. But Director of Special Services Ben Garcia said a mistake was made on the district’s end; 134 teachers are proficient with only one teacher performing at the basic level.

The report indicates that evaluations were not completed for 533 of Boise’s 1,584 teachers. Superintendent Don Coberly and Human Resources Administrator Nick Smith told EdNews the state’s data is incomplete, and Boise performed the evaluations prior to the May 1 deadline. However, administrators were unable to gather signatures from all of their teachers and principals, and input the data into personnel files before sending data off to the state Monday.

Boise’s complete data will be submitted next month, Smith said.

Finally, the report does not include evaluations data for Idaho Digital Learning Academy’s 258 teachers — but that information will be submitted to the SDE later this summer.

IDLA’s evaluation data was not included in the latest SDE report because the online virtual school operates on a different calendar and with different deadlines than most traditional schools, Superintendent Cheryl Charlton and Director of Operations Jacob Smith said.

“Our spring courses do not conclude until after the traditional school deadline for reporting teacher evaluations,” Smith said. “We worked with the State Department of Education to identify a timeframe for (reporting)teacher evaluations this summer —in August.”

Charlton said IDLA administrators “comply above and beyond what is requested to ensure high levels of accountability.”

The accuracy of evaluations became a talking point during the 2016 legislative session. Lawmakers tweaked the career ladder law and shifted responsibility of reviewing and auditing a sampling of evaluations away from the State Department of Education.

After July 1, that review process will now be the responsibility of the State Board of Education.

It does not appear that the 2015-16 data was reviewed for accuracy before it was released Thursday to EdNews. The data was released in aggregate form, and did not in any way identify individual teachers.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader performed research for this article. Editor Jennifer Swindell contributed to the reporting of this story.