Idaho educators developed the standards used to audit teacher evaluations

The State Department of Education took the advice of Idaho teachers and principals to develop guidelines for the audit that revealed widespread inaccuracies in teacher evaluations.

Evaluations committee
Members of the Professional Evaluations Review Committee, pictured here in 2015, developed guidelines for the evaluations audit.

Idaho Education News reported Monday that an independent audit found 99 percent of evaluations from the 2014-15 school year were inaccurate or incomplete. The Denver-based consulting firm McREL International conducted the audit, taking a random sample of 225 evaluations from 53 school districts.

Idaho professional educators set the standards for the audit.

The SDE assembled a 15-person Professional Evaluation Review Committee in 2015 to develop guidelines for auditing evaluations. The committee included four current teachers, school board members, administrators, a superintendent, principals and representatives from Idaho colleges and universities. The committee met over two days in July 2015.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has not commented on the audit, but SDE Director of Certification and Professional Standards Lisa Colon Durham and department spokesman Jeff Church explained the history during a Tuesday interview.

The Legislature called for the audit in the first place — in the 2015 career ladder salary law.

The review committee requested that the audit address the following issues:

  • Quantity of classroom observations (state law requires two).
  • Weighting between an educator’s professional practice and student achievement.
  • Inclusion of all 22 components from Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching.
  • Whether the evaluations include other measures.
  • Whether a district or charter has a written evaluation policy.

The committee called for auditing evaluations completed by 165 of the state’s 800 principals and vice principals. State officials randomly selected them and requested two evaluations from each principal.

Some administrators had not performed any teacher evaluations that year — or just one — which explains why auditors screened only 225 evaluations.

Charters and districts supplied the evaluations themselves for the audits, Church said.

Teacher evaluations are increasingly important in Idaho, because the career ladder salary law partially tied a teacher’s ability to earn a raise to those evaluations. Beginning next year, evaluation data will form the basis for raises, and Ybarra is expected to ask the Legislature to spend about $58 million to increase teacher pay and benefits.

Several prominent education officials said they had not seen the audit until EdNews’ report Monday, even though the SDE received the document in July.

“We have more questions than answers at this point,” Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said Tuesday afternoon. “Why was the information not released sooner?”

New House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, State Board of Education Executive Director Matt Freeman and State Board Legislative Affairs Officer/spokesman Blake Youde all said they first saw the report on IdahoEdNews.org. They said they have never discussed the findings with Ybarra.

 

Idaho law requires an annual audit of teacher evaluations. An auditor from Boyd Consulting, originally contracted to review the evaluations, died midway through his work during the 2016 legislative session, causing a delay in completing the audit, Colon Durham said. That forced SDE officials to start over with McREL.

The SDE plans to present McREL’s 2014-15 audit findings to the 2017 Legislature, which convenes next month.