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State Ed Board to address teacher evaluations, Ybarra calls on districts to ‘stand tall’

Fallout is continuing from the Idaho EdNews report earlier this week that a previously unreleased audit of Idaho teacher evaluations – which the state received in July – found 99 percent were inaccurate or incomplete. First, state Board of Education President Emma Atchley announced that the state board will be addressing the issue at its Dec. 15 meeting next week, saying, “The audit raises serious concerns regarding the teacher evaluation process conducted during the 2014-2015 school year,” and noting that the board’s audit of 2015-16 teacher evaluations already is under way. “Directions from the board to school districts will be communicated in the near future,” Atchley said yesterday.

Today, state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra issued a statement calling on school districts to “stand tall, stand proud and stand together” regarding teacher evaluations, saying the audit was “never intended to be an ‘I gotcha’ of Idaho educators.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers will be asked to approve funding for the next phase of the teacher career ladder in their upcoming session, to the tune of $58 million; the career ladder teacher pay plan relies on the evaluation process.

Here are Atchley and Ybarra’s full statements:


“The Idaho State Board of Education will review the findings of the recently released audit commissioned by the Idaho State Department of Education to examine how evaluations of our public school teachers were conducted and reported by local school district administrators.

An annual audit of teacher evaluations is required by the Career Ladder legislation, which was passed in 2015.  The Career Ladder legislation dictates the amount of state funding provided annually to local school districts to pay for teacher salaries.  The amount of state funding provided per teacher is based on performance as examined through a professional teacher evaluation conducted by school administrators.  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.   

 Earlier this year, the Idaho legislature tasked the State Board with responsibility for auditing teacher evaluations.  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.  The State Board’s audit of 2015-2016 teacher evaluations is already underway, and directions from the Board to school districts will be communicated in the near future.  In October and as part of the process, the State Board passed an administrative rule requiring specific evaluation and student performance data to be reported by districts in order for a teacher to advance along the Career Ladder.

At its regularly scheduled meeting next week (December 15th), the State Board will take the opportunity to identify steps to be taken at both the state and district levels to ensure evaluations are completed and reported accurately and in accordance with state law including administrative rule.  As a Board, we will tackle issues, including but not limited to,

·       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?

There are opportunities to use findings from the audit to improve the teacher evaluation process at the state and local level and ensure state funds are used consistent with legislative intent.  All State Board members take the fiduciary responsibility entrusted by the Legislature very seriously, and we all have an expectation of improvement in how the teacher evaluation process is conducted.  The State Board has demonstrated this through its direct distribution and oversight of hundreds of millions of dollars in other areas of education. The same diligence will be extended to teacher evaluations and the resulting salary apportionment.


“In a memo sent to superintendents and charter administrators this morning, I directed districts to stand tall, stand proud, and stand together to the interpretation of the McREL report on teacher evaluations, as this audit was never intended to be an ‘I gotcha’ of Idaho educators. It is important to remember that this audit was conducted with data from the 2014-2015 school year, which was prior to the implementation of the new Career Ladder requirements. The release date of this report has caused confusion due to the original contracted auditor passing away, which did cause a slight delay in the release of the report. That being said, superintendents and educators have my full support as I recognize they are working hard to follow the law.”

“It is also important to point out that teacher evaluations are under scrutiny across the nation, not just in Idaho, and it is likely that the new national administration will leave the solutions up to individual states. I look forward to having more discussions at the upcoming Idaho State Board of Education meeting and the legislative session. I intend to use the information that we have from this audit, as well as additional information from the state board’s audit, as it was intended. It was intended to provide clarity during the roll out of the Career Ladder and to move more in the direction of statewide support and collaboration. Our hard working educators are tirelessly going above and beyond the call of duty to support schools and students to achieve.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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