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Great teachers deserve fair evaluations

Great teachers deserve fair evaluations

Lindsay Russell Dexter
July 20, 2016

The system for evaluating teachers in Idaho is flawed.

Salaries for teachers in Idaho are set, as are regular salary increases. But without an effective system to evaluate teachers, holding them truly accountable becomes difficult.

In effect, there’s no means of separating excellent, mediocre and poor teachers. Great teachers aren’t duly rewarded, and bad teachers aren’t held liable.

In recent months, Superintendent Sherri Ybarra has touted the need for a change in the way teachers are held accountable in the classroom. Policymakers and other education reform advocates echo her ideas.

But there’s an important disconnect between the $125.5 million dollars the Legislature appropriated to the Idaho Career Ladder and the lack of true teacher accountability.

For the second consecutive year, indisputable evidence shows teacher evaluation reports are riddled with so many errors the data is rendered meaningless. How can the Legislature, in good conscious, continue to appropriate money to the career ladder while acknowledging flaws in the current teacher performance system?

The Legislature can’t defend the career ladder and, until lawmakers implement a new teacher evaluation tool, it should delay further appropriation. Granted, a new evaluation system, like all bureaucratic programs, may take several years. But it would be interesting to see just how quickly the Legislature, State Board of Education and the State Department of Education can create an entirely new system once groups like the Idaho Education Association start applying pressure.

It will only be a matter of time after a new teacher evaluation system is set that Idaho can properly reward great teachers. Under the career ladder salary law, teachers are rewarded regardless of actual performance, because there’s no tangible way to determine their successes or failures.

According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Idaho’s fourth-grade math scores were the worst since 2003; eighth-grade math scores were the lowest since 2007. These dismal results are strong indicators that something in the current education system isn’t working for students.

Teachers aren’t the only factor in the success of a student, but they are the crux and should be treated as such. As with any profession, excellent teachers should be rewarded, and poor teachers should be held accountable.

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