State Board won’t hire McREL for teacher evaluations review

The State Board of Education will not hire the firm behind a controversial review of teacher evaluations to do another review of evaluations, officials announced late Wednesday.

Instead, State Board officials will recruit Idaho-based trained teacher evaluators for their review process, which will be conducted in two phases.

“The review process conducted by the State Board will be completely new and separate from the review of 2014-2015 teacher evaluations conducted by the State Department of Education and McREL International,” State Board officials wrote in Wednesday’s news release.

State Board officials did not identify their review team in a Wednesday news release. Instead, they said the State Board will recruit them “from a pool of trained teacher evaluators spanning the elementary, secondary and higher education system.”

Last month, Idaho Education News relied on a public records request to publish an independent review of teacher evaluations from 2014-15. That review, completed by the Denver-based firm McREL International, found that 99 percent of evaluations screened did not meet all of the state’s requirements.

School administrators and educators criticized the McREL review as invalid and unfair because some of the requirements were not in place when the 2014-15 evaluations were due.

Earlier this year, the Legislature took the responsibility of reviewing teacher evaluations away from Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and the State Department of Education and gave it to the State Board.

State Board officials will conduct their review in two phases, making an initial report to legislators by Feb. 15.

For the first phase, the State Board will randomly select 200 Idaho school administrators from across the state and request a list of all teachers and staff members they evaluated.

From that list, the State Board’s staff will select at least two teachers and one staff member per administrator. Districts will then be required to submit two things from each employee’s evaluations:

  • Observations used to inform the staff members summative evaluation.
  • The completed annual, summative evaluation, including separate sections for student achievement and a teacher’s professional practice.

Based on a review of those documents, the State Board will issue its findings by Feb. 15.

“The first phase will focus on a public school district’s or public charter school’s policies and process for conducting teacher evaluations during the 2015-2016 school year,” State Board officials wrote.

In recent weeks, there has been considerable confusion and disagreement among school administrators and even a legislator about whether written observations were required for the previous year’s review.

State Board officials said their review “will include a minimum of two documented classroom observations, with at least one completed prior to Jan. 1 of each year.”

For the second phase, the State Board’s team will select approximately 10 percent of the evaluations from the first phase for on-site visits and “a more in-depth focus” on evaluation practices. That phase will focus on the content of the evaluations.

Schools selected for that in-depth, on-site review will be notified by Jan. 31. State Board officials anticipate making a report on the second phase of their review by the end of April.

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