Worry ‘overblown’ about teacher reviews, State Board says. State spent $112,000 on analysis

Boise Schools challenges data in state report

Educators, lawmakers need to be working from correct information to move ahead in education reform, says Don Coberly, Boise Schools superintendent.
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Educators, lawmakers need to be working from correct information to move ahead in education reform, says Don Coberly, Boise Schools superintendent.

Idaho’s flap over the quality of its public school teacher evaluations is “overblown,” Emma Atchley, State Board of Education president said Thursday.

Atchley’s comments followed a report on teacher evaluations made public last week that districts said unfairly made schools appear they were falling short on assessments.

The company that did the analysis on a sample of public school teacher reviews told the board Thursday there were no inaccuracies in the evaluations and that the districts did nothing wrong.

“They are using (the evaluations) appropriately,” said Tony Davis, consulting director for the nonprofit McRel International, a Denver-based consulting organization that conducted the review. The analysis “was not meant to indict the districts.”

The Associated Press reported that the Idaho Department of Education paid more than $112,000 for the review of the state’s teacher evaluation system, but did not instruct the consultants team to ensure the system was complying with state law.

State law allows public school districts to build their own model for teacher evaluations as long as they follow state statutes and submit those plans to the Education Department for approval. Instead of comparing each evaluation to the individual model it was built under, McREL was instructed by a state advisory committee to compare them all to one specific model.

As a result, the consulting team found that 99 percent of the selected evaluations were incomplete in the 2014-15 school year.

The report’s findings have frustrated school administrators across the state, with many arguing that the state set the consultations to compare apples to oranges and thus inadvertently undermined the trust that schools are properly vetting their teachers.

The McRel report said just three of the 255 evaluations surveyed met all the standards laid out by a committee of the State Department of Education on what to look for.

The report also said evaluations were inconsistent and needed to better align to the state’s evaluation model. Idaho adopted the model in 2010, and officials have been getting training since 2013.

McRel did not have Idaho state laws or rules from the State Board of Education to use in doing its evaluations, said Tedra Clark, who headed up the McRel study.

Districts complained earlier this week that the report measured them against standards they were not required to meet and looked at evaluations from 2014-2015, a year before the teacher pay program that will use evaluations took effect.

Davis said the report was an analysis of general data brought together from 255 evaluations and not a detailed audit that would have drilled more deeply into specifics in evaluations.

“I am glad to hear it wasn’t an audit,” said Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, who criticized the McRel report. “But that was not what was reported by the media ... and that is what the Legislature heard.”

Clark said the report should be viewed as a baseline for evaluations taken the year before they will become part of the teacher’s career ladder and formal performance reviews. Beginning in 2018-2019, evaluations will measure job performance and teacher pay, and stretch over three years.

Now, Coberly said, districts have to go to lawmakers and make certain they understand the concerns superintendents have with the report.

“We view it as a very important issue,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed.