The pedagogy changes as soon as you walk into the classroom. Let's face it, you don't care how the teacher performs when the principal's in there. What we all care about and what is legitimate is how the teacher performs when they are not being observed. —Board member Leslie Castle
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education on Friday adopted new teacher evaluation guidelines that rely mostly on administrative observation, but also on evidence of student growth and input from parents.
Over the past three years, several school districts have been piloting the program to determine how to balance the metrics used in teacher evaluations. It was started in response to a bill passed in 2012 requiring districts to adopt a method of evaluating educators each year.
The board voted to base 70 percent of a teacher's overall evaluation on observation by the school principal, 20 percent on student performance on assessments and individual goals, and 10 percent on input from stakeholders, such as parents and students.
Education leaders hope the new weighting will bring consistency to the way educator effectiveness is measured in Utah.
"The purpose of this whole system is not just to be about grading teachers," said Linda Alder, coordinator of educator effectiveness. "But one of the first things that we realized is that we had to have standards for teachers and leaders and that we had to be able to measure our progress toward reaching those standards in order for us to know how well we're doing with students."
The weighted components will be used statewide, but education leaders will continue to take feedback on the program, which will become permanent in the 2016-17 school year.
The program provides a tool for school administrators to use when evaluating teachers in the classroom, giving them a set of metrics to look for in teaching practices used.
Board member Leslie Castle said she was concerned about the bulk of the evaluation process being based on what principals observe during their time in the classroom, which will inevitably be different from typical teaching practices. She also asked how the evaluation process takes into account the feedback about teachers that principals get outside the classroom.
"The pedagogy changes as soon as you walk into the classroom," Castle said. "Let's face it, you don't care how the teacher performs when the principal's in there. What we all care about and what is legitimate is how the teacher performs when they are not being observed."
Castle noted the possibility of using cameras in the classroom to give administrators a random and unobtrusive way of observing instruction. Some districts have already started using cameras, as well as bringing in principals from other schools to evaluate teachers, Alder said.
The 20 percent of the evaluation based on student performance looks different depending on the age of the student, but it can include results from SAGE, Utah's year-end standard assessment, and individual student learning objectives set by the teacher.
Deputy superintendent Sydnee Dickson said the system will use data to help school leaders guide instruction and help teachers critique themselves.
"We are really trying to shift the paradigm from going in in a one-shot sit down (to) grade teachers," Dickson said. "We are trying to create a culture of feedback and we are trying to help school leaders and teachers understand (that) that is part of professionalism."
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