UPDATED: What’s next for teacher evaluations? Quality and accuracy

(UPDATED, Dec. 7, to reflect new developments and reaction from the State Board of Education)

Idaho State Board of Education President Emma Atchley is pledging to take immediate corrective action in the wake of an audit that revealed widespread errors and omissions among teacher evaluations.

“The audit raises serious concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process conducted during the 2014-2015 school year.” State Board President Emma Atchley said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“The State Board takes this function very seriously because the allocation of state funding for teacher salaries is directly linked to the evaluations administrators complete and report.”

After Idaho Education News published the audit, State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman and Legislative Affairs Officer Blake Youde also said they are turning their immediate focus toward helping school administrators improve the quality and accuracy of teacher evaluations.

Reviewers from McREL International completed independent audit of 225 teacher evaluations from 2014-15 that revealed 99 percent of them were inaccurate or incomplete.

Atchley announced that the State Board will take the issue up during its next meeting on Dec. 15. Atchley said the State Board will focus on issues including, but not limited to:

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  • Do school district administrators have adequate training in conducting teacher evaluations and reporting the findings to the state?
  • Is there clear direction to administrators regarding when to conduct and report the evaluations?
  • Do administrators receive feedback regarding whether their evaluations and the subsequent reporting meet the requirements of state law and administrative rule?

State Board officials first learned about the audit’s findings from Idaho Education News Monday. The State Department of Education received the audit in July.

State Board Meeting
State Board of Education Executive Director Matt Freeman, left, participates in a recent Board meeting.

“With the findings of this report that just came to our attention, we have looked at the process and determined we need to include an element that looks at implementation of the evaluations by administrators,” Youde said. “As they implement (evaluations), are they meeting the requirements of administrative rule and state law in conducting and reporting the teacher evaluations?”

The SDE was responsible for the evaluations audit from the 2014-15 school year. In most cases, according to the audit, school administrators did not follow procedures or even state law.

The 2016 Legislature gave the State Board the responsibility for audits.

The State Board is still looking for a vendor for a 2015-16 audit, but Youde said he expects to provide findings to the 2017 Legislature.

Idaho law requires annual audits.

Beyond the audits, the State Board wants training for administrators and will likely consult with Boise State University or other colleges and universities. This training is likely to happen this spring, Freeman said.

New House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, said she is interested in helping administrators improve the evaluations process. She first learned about the 2014-15 audit from Idaho EdNews, as did Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.

“I would like to work with (Mortimer) on getting more training out there and making sure that they know how to collect the data,” VanOrden said. “It will be important for teacher evaluations — not only for the benefit of our appropriation (funding teacher pay), but teachers need some really accurate information so they can perfect their trade.”

Disclosure: Idaho Education News reporters are Boise State University employees. EdNews is not involved in the audit or professional development associated with teacher evaluations.