Public education stakeholders endorse evaluation bill

Published: Monday, Feb. 27 2012 8:04 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The State Office of Education, Utah Education Association, Utah Parent Teacher Association and other groups from the public education community Monday threw their support behind a bill that would evaluate school administrators and teachers.

"This is a great kumbaya moment," Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said during a press conference held at the state Capitol.

Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, sponsor of SB64, which creates a system of annual evaluations for administrators and public education employees that would be tied to salary increases and termination. It passed a preliminary vote in the Senate on Monday and Osmond expects it to pass the Senate and come before the House within the week.

Osmond said the bill is the result of numerous public meetings, classroom observations and conversations with parents, teachers and school administrators. State Superintendent Larry Shumway applauded the efforts of all those involved to reach a common ground.

"Compromise is hard to come by, consensus is hard to come by," he said. "The work that Senator Osmond has done with the stakeholders represents hard, but good work."

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh called the bill "groundbreaking," again citing the efforts of Osmond to speak with hundreds of Utah teachers in drafting the legislation.

"This bill will assure there's a quality administrator and teacher in every classroom," she said.

Osmond said the primary purpose of the bill is to evaluate administrators. Their performance would be measured based on a combination of teacher and parent comments, student progress indicators, their effectiveness in evaluating their staff and other criteria determined by local districts. Future salary increases for administrators would be based on performance until 15 percent of their compensation is tied to an annual evaluation.

The bill also includes a secondary component of evaluating teachers. Under the guidelines of the bill, administrators would evaluate their staff annually and rank them on a 1-4 scale, the parameters of which will be determined by the state Board of Education and local districts.

Those rankings would then be converted into cumulative data by school districts and made public, giving the number of teachers in each ranking but not their names. He said this would provide the public with quantitative data on districts and schools without humiliating individual teachers for poor performance.

"Obviously it was not our intention to create a public flogging of a bad teacher," Osmond said.

Employees who receive the lowest two rankings would be ineligible for annual salary increases and would be subject to termination if they repeat poor performance issues within a three-year period.

The bill is one of two education evaluation bills currently being heard by the Senate. Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, sponsored SB67, which focuses on the evaluation of teachers and converts scheduled salary increases — commonly known as steps and lanes — to a performance-based system. SB67 is currently on the Senate's second reading calendar awaiting a preliminary debate and vote.

Adams could not be reached for comment Monday.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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