Report praises Idaho’s flawed teacher evaluation process

Evaluations committee
The State Department of Education assembled a committee in July to look at ways to audit, and improve, Idaho’s teacher evaluations.

Idaho has one of the nation’s strongest teacher evaluation policies, according to a national report issued Tuesday.

Idaho requires annual teacher evaluations, a national “best practice,” says the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. The group also gave Idaho conditional praise for using student achievement as a teacher evaluation metric.

What happens to those teacher evaluations is another question — and one likely to arise when the Idaho Legislature convenes its 2016 session next month. Several district superintendents purposely submitted inaccurate evaluations data to the state. Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, chairman of the House Education Committee, has said he wants to review the evaluation system in 2016.

In June, Idaho Education News first reported that 32 of Idaho’s 115 districts reported giving all of their teachers “proficient” grades in 2013-14. In 2014-15, 20 districts and 16 charter schools reported across-the-board grades — and according to these reports, only 37 of 19,388 teachers statewide received “unsatisfactory” grades.

The NCTQ report did not focus on the reporting flaws — and some superintendents’ refusal to report accurate evaluation data to the State Department of Education. The NCTQ instead focused on the evaluation process itself.

Idaho’s annual evaluations are not uncommon; they are required in 27 states. But Idaho is one of just 11 states that explicitly uses student achievement in teacher evaluations. In Idaho, a third of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student achievement; NCTQ says this should be the “preponderant criterion” in evaluations.

Evaluations have taken on added importance in Idaho, with the 2015 Legislature’s passage of a career ladder, a five-year plan to boost teacher pay. Raises will be tied in part to teacher evaluations.

Overall, NCTQ’s 98-page “yearbook” gives Idaho a C-minus for its policy to prepare, retain and reward teachers. That C-minus aligns with NCTQ’s national average, and marks an improvement from the state’s D-plus grade in 2013.

Elsewhere in the report card, NCTQ says Idaho has considerable work to do. The group criticizes the state’s colleges of education for lax admission standards that do not include minimum grade-point averages or test scores. The group also urges the state to adopt “performance pay” that focuses salary dollars into hard-to-fill teaching positions.

NCTQ describes itself as a bipartisan group that seeks “to achieve fundamental changes in the policy and practices of teacher preparation programs, school districts, state governments, and teachers unions.”

Disclosure: The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is a funder of the National Council on Teacher Quality, and funds Idaho Education News.