Teacher evaluations flunk audit

99 percent were incomplete or out of line with state law

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Nearly every Idaho public school teacher evaluation reviewed by an independent auditing firm failed to meet state guidelines.

Idaho Education News reported the audit’s findings Tuesday, and in response, public education leaders in Kootenai County said there is a gap in communication between the State Department of Education and school districts when it comes to how teacher evaluations should be conducted.

Auditors commissioned by the Department of Education found 99 percent of the evaluations reviewed were incomplete or out of line with state law. The audit’s findings were acquired by Idaho Education News from the state through a public record request. The state education department received the audit results in July.

Idaho State Board of Education President Emma Atchley said in a statement Wednesday that the state board will address the results of the audit Dec. 15 when it meets in Nampa.

Idaho education law calls for the teacher evaluations and an annual audit of the evaluations, Atchley said.

“The amount of state funding provided per teacher is based on performance as examined through a professional teacher evaluation conducted by school administrators (principals),” Atchley said. “Since 2013, administrators have had opportunities for training on the evaluation process. The audit raises serious concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process conducted during the 2014-2015 school year.”

The report shows auditors reviewed 225 evaluations from the 2014-15 school year from 53 Idaho school districts and charters. Of the 225 evaluations, six came from the Coeur d’Alene School District, six came from the Post Falls School District and two came from the Lakeland Joint School District. The auditors found only three evaluations of the 225 that were completed correctly to the state department’s guidelines.

Coeur d’Alene public schools Superintendent Matt Handelman said the audit shows there needs to be better communication about expectations between the state education department and Idaho school districts.

“If it was about 50 percent that think they are doing what needs to be done, I’d say some people aren’t maybe paying enough attention,” he said. “But 99 percent of these not being done as they see as acceptable, to me there must be a disconnect in the expectation from the state and the understanding of the school districts.”

Per Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News, the audit confirms teacher evaluations are inconsistent and unreliable, and unveils hundreds of errors including a lack of any goals in most evaluations. The report also shows most evaluations did not include two classroom observations, as Idaho law requires, and 38 percent were turned in late.

“To my understanding and the understanding of everyone around me, there wasn’t a requirement to have goals written into the evaluations,” Handelman said. “Yet whoever was auditing them thought there was. Does that mean our teachers don’t have goals? Absolutely not.”

Auditors also found most of the evaluations based on the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching — a research-based teacher evaluation method divided into 22 components — failed to include all 22 components, as required by the state.

Jerry Keane, superintendent of the Post Falls School District, said he hasn’t received any feedback from the state education department as to what was wrong with the six evaluations from his district that were included in the audit.

“I look at all of [the evaluations] and they are very well done and very thorough,” he told the Press Wednesday. “There are 22 areas in the Danielson model, and I will tell you that if that’s the concern, that all 22 aren’t thoroughly covered, to me that’s wrong thinking. We like to target certain areas with all of our employees. My philosophy is there won’t be any focus if you try to focus on 22 areas all in one year.”

Lisa Sexton, assistant superintendent in the Lakeland Joint School District, said components of the Danielson model are impossible to evaluate with classroom observations, likely contributing to the number of incomplete applications.

“When she does her trainings, Charlotte Danielson herself will tell you that domains one and four [planning and preparation and professional responsibilities] are unobservable,” Sexton said. “Those components are on our evaluations, but observers can’t see that when they go into a classroom.”

The Idaho Education Association, the state teachers union, issued a general statement Wednesday in response to news of the audit results: “The research data relating to teacher evaluations is unfortunate, but should not in any way be viewed as an indictment of teacher quality. We look forward to working with other education stakeholders to improving the process and developing an evaluation system that is efficient, fair and reasonable.”

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