Education department to audit teacher evaluations

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra is putting together a team to review whether to tie Idaho’s current teacher evaluation system to teacher pay.

Ybarra first week
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra

Tim Corder, a former state senator serving as Ybarra’s special assistant, said a committee is being appointed in conjunction with the new career ladder law, the Legislature’s five-year plan to put an additional $125.5 million into teacher pay, but tie pay raises to accountability measures.

“Perhaps it is time for Idaho to invest in a different tool that can be deployed statewide and can get to that accountability,” Corder said Tuesday.

Corder broke news of the committee’s formation on the heels of an Idaho Education News investigation into the validity of teacher evaluation data. Relying on data obtained through the Idaho Public Records Act, Ed News determined that administrators in 32 of Idaho’s 115 school districts gave all of their teachers identical, overall evaluation scores in 2013-14. Additionally, administrators in 34 other districts gave nearly every teacher an identical evaluation score of “proficient” — one of four possible scores educators may earn.

Administrators at 12 of the 48 charter schools (including online schools) listed in state records released to Ed News also gave all of their teachers identical scores of “proficient.” Two other charter schools scored all of their educators as “distinguished.”

Finally, retiring New Plymouth Superintendent Ryan Kerby, a Republican legislator who sits on the House Education Committee, told Ed News that he purposely gave all 59 of his district’s teachers identical evaluation scores because, “Our school district, quite unanimously, did not figure the state needs to know all that individual teacher data.”

Corder said the article highlights many longstanding concerns that Ybarra has held over using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching as anything other than a self-improvement tool. The framework is designed for teachers and administrators to discuss educators’ strengths and weaknesses, to target professional development training and to craft an annual learning plan or improvement plan, Corder said.

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Under the career ladder teacher pay plan approved by the 2015 Legislature, teachers must earn an overall evaluation score of “proficient” or better to advance from the initial residency rung of the career ladder to the professional rung – and earn a higher salary. Additionally, local school officials may elect to use evaluations as a tool for awarding $4,000 in master teacher premium bonuses to experienced teachers.

Corder said he isn’t surprised that the majority of Idaho’s teachers earned high marks, but he said he and Ybarra are concerned over the appropriateness of using evaluations as an accountability tool.

Lisa Colon, the State Department of Education’s teacher certification / Professional Standards Commission director, has been appointed to head up the committee to review the matter. The committee has not been named, but state officials are requesting representatives from the Idaho Education Association and all major education groups participate in the review, Corder said.

The review will occur in a public, transparent manner and any recommended changes would be submitted to the Legislature or the State Board of Education, Corder said.

“If it’s beneficial to children and helps teachers be successful, the superintendent would be pushing such a recommendation very strongly,” Corder said of Ybarra’s priorities. “This superintendent has been very clear from the very beginning that we’ve been beating teachers for far too long. Now it’s time to start identifying all the things we are doing right.

“This is vitally important.”

Horman New
Rep. Wendy Horman

Rep. Wendy Horman, an Idaho Falls Republican who helped set the 2015-16 public school budget, said she expects additional legislative scrutiny of the intersection of evaluations, data collection, accountability and the career ladder.

“There were a lot of questions asked during the legislative process, and based on this (Ed News) report there are a lot of questions yet to be asked,” Horman said.

“I anticipate that will happen in January when the Legislature returns,” Horman continued. “I don’t want to speak for the Legislature, but I certainly have those questions.”

As part of the career ladder law, State Department of Education officials are charged with auditing and reviewing a sampling of teacher evaluations “to verify such evaluations are being conducted with fidelity to the state framework for teaching evaluation.”

Ybarra was traveling to a State Board meeting this week and taking vacation time, and was unavailable for comment this week, Corder said. Corder, who has been by Ybarra’s side since last year’s campaign, said he discussed evaluations with Ybarra after the Ed News article was published and was speaking on her behalf.

Searchable 2013-2014 teacher evaluation data

Searchable 2013-2014 teacher evaluation data

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