Review team says it found no inaccuracies in teacher evaluations

NAMPA — Members of the team that reviewed 2014-15 teacher evaluations told the State Board of Education on Thursday they found no inaccuracies — and said news coverage of their report was overblown.

Two officials from Denver-based McREL International, Tedra Clark and Tony Davis, presented their review of a random sample of teacher evaluations during a 30-minute presentation. This was the first time State Board members were presented with the findings. The State Department of Education hired McREL to review evaluations for compliance with state guidelines, and received the final review in July.

When asked if McREL’s team was given the Idaho Code and administrative rules as legal reference tools before or during their review, Clark told the State Board, “I don’t think so.”

McREL’s team reviewed 225 teacher evaluations pulled from 53 school districts or charter schools.

“(School administrators) were submitting their teacher evaluations and there is nothing in the report that indicates their teacher evaluations were inaccurate,” said Clark, the project’s director.

State Board President Emma Atchley concluded that news coverage of evaluations was “overblown” but said there are areas for improvement as the State Board prepares to audit 2015-16 teacher evaluations.

“I think your information and our experience will help us do a much better job of auditing within the board office,” Atchley said.

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Davis said his takeaway message from the review was Idaho needs “to have a real clear definition of educator effectiveness.”

Davis also recommended schools and policymakers emphasize the evaluation system in ways that improve instructional quality and have an impact on student achievement.

Davis and Clark also criticized news reports that referred to the McREL document as an audit, when they consider it a “desk review.” They described a desk review as less detailed than an audit.

Idaho Education News described the report as an audit — as have Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and Atchley in official written statements and letters to educators.

When asked if school administrators were using the state’s evaluation tool appropriately, Davis told the State Board, “Yes, they are using it appropriately.”

“There was consistency in the way the teachers were rated,” Davis told State Board member Andrew Scoggin.

However, McREL’s 30-page review concluded, “Inconsistent implementation suggests that some districts either selected not to follow the prescribed process or lacked sufficient understanding of the system.”

The written review also states, “The findings suggest a need for greater focus on consistency and adherence to key components of the evaluation system. … Notably, only three (1 percent) of 225 evaluations contained all of the following criteria prescribed by SDE.”

Those criteria, developed by Idaho teachers, administrators and SDE officials, included:

  • Whether administrators included two classroom observations.
  • Whether the evaluation included a summary rating based on all 22 Danielson Framework components.
  • Whether administrators used the rating scale of “unsatisfactory,” “basic,” “proficient” and “distinguished.”
  • Whether they applied the proper weighting between a teacher’s “professional practice” and student achievement.
  • Whether the evaluation included an overall summary rating score.
  • Whether the evaluation was turned in by May 1, as was required at the time.

In their written review, McREL’s team noted, “only 39 percent (of evaluations reviewed) included data from a second observation.”

Idaho law, which pre-dated the career ladder salary law and the due date for 2014-15 evaluations, requires “a minimum of two documented” classroom observations be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

In the written review, McREL’s team also noted that 34 percent of evaluations screened did not include an overall summative rating, as required.

On Dec. 5, Idaho Education News was the first to publish the McREL review and report on its findings, obtaining the document through a public records request.

Ybarra and her staff received the report July 11. Ybarra told EdNews that this week was the first opportunity to present the five-month-old review to the State Board.