Spelling it Out: A tutorial on teacher evaluations

Idaho administrators are required to evaluate all teachers every year.

These evaluations matter because they are tied to tax dollars — teachers must earn a proficient or distinguished rating to be eligible for raises.

And the more teachers who score high marks, the more money the state gives a district for salaries.

Historically, nearly all teachers are rated  proficient or higher.


What are the required components of a teacher evaluation?

Idaho requires administrators to meet four primary requirements when evaluating certified staff:

  • Two observations: Administrators must complete at least two documented observations of staff members’ professional practice, the first of which must occur before Jan. 1.
  • One additional measure of a teacher's professional practice: This measure may be based on “student feedback, parent feedback or a portfolio."
  • The portfolio could consist of a teacher's self-made goal, paired with reflection and documentation "that provide insight into a staff member’s performance and/or growth."
  • Parent or student feedback could be collected via survey.
  • Student achievement evidence: This could consist of test results or CTE enrollment/completion rates.
  • Here are more specific examples: ISAT results; teacher-constructed assessments; pre and post-tests; IRI scores; college entrance exams; AP exams; CTE exams; earned industry certificates or credentials; CTE capstone course completion rates; and CTE course enrollment numbers.
  • A summative evaluation of the teacher: Administrators must complete at least one summative evaluation of each teacher before June 1, which must be aligned to professional standards and based on a combination of the items above.
  • The evaluation must be assigned an overall summative rating of either 1 (Unsatisfactory); 2 (Basic); 3 (Proficient); or — optionally — 4 (Distinguished). This summative rating must be based on a combination of professional practice and student achievement.
  • For teachers, those standards are the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. Evaluations for pupil service staff (such as counselors) make use of the profession’s national standards

What are principals looking for during classroom observations?

  • They are usually looking for teacher proficiency in one or more Charlotte Danielson Framework domains.
  • The observation might be announced (meaning the visit was scheduled) or unannounced (meaning the visit was not scheduled — an administrator just came in the classroom randomly).
  • Administrators usually sit in a classroom for 20 minutes to a full class period and take notes/make observations on a rubric aligned to the Danielson framework.

What is the charlotte danielson framework?

The gist: Basically, it's a set of benchmarks for best practices in teaching. The benchmarks are grouped into four overarching categories (or domains). Teachers in Idaho and across the country are evaluated on their proficiency with rubrics based on the domains.

  • Four overarching categories are used to evaluate teachers: They include planning and preparation; learning environments; learning experiences; and principled teaching.
    • Each domain is broken down into subcategories. Rubrics for teacher evaluations are based on one or more of these domains. For example, an administrator might be looking for evidence of planning and preparation during teachers’ first observation of the year, and might focus on learning experiences for the second observation.
  • Context and history: The Framework for Teaching was developed in 1996 by Charlotte Danielson “to promote clear and meaningful conversations about effective teaching practices.” In 2013, teacher evaluation rubrics based on the framework “were adopted, approved, or adapted by 31 states.”
    • New update: In 2022, a third edition of the framework was released, with a new rubric, updated components, and tools to support teacher growth and development.
    • Controversy: In 2017, Danielson herself expressed concerns over how Idaho was using her system to make high-stakes teacher pay decisions.
      • She worried that administrators weren't properly trained on how to use her method, leading to inflated evaluation scores. Instead, she said objective, outside experts should conduct observations. And she also questioned whether evaluations should be tied to raises at all.
      • The Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee later earmarked $1 million for teacher evaluation training.

Why evaluations matter:



What happens if a teacher gets a bad evaluation?

Teachers almost always get a proficient or distinguished marking on ther evaluation. But occasionally, their performance might get marked as unsatisfactory, which can result in a terminated contract. Here's what happens when that occurs (according to Idaho code 33-515):

  • The next steps depend on the type of contract a teacher has. New teachers start out with a three-year residency period. After that period, most teachers earn a professional endorsement (a five-year certificate) and an automatically renewing contract.
  • In the case of a teacher who is in their first three years, the board of trustees can determine not to renew their contract at any time. If the teacher was hired after August (as an emergency hire), no reason needs to be provided. If the teacher was hired before August, a rationale must be provided.
  • A teacher with a renewable contract must be given a chance to improve before any major disciplinary actions are taken.
    • Probation request: An administrator or superintendent might request that the board put the teacher on probation.
    • Probation letter: The board of trustees will then provide the teacher with written notice that provides the reasons for the probationary period (one of which might be an unsatisfactory evaluation score). The notice will also delineate "provisions for adequate supervision and evaluation of the person's peformance during the probationary period." The goal is for the teacher to show improvement by the end of that probationary period.
    • Probation record: A record of the decision to be put on probation will be placed in the teacher's personnel file.
    • Hearing: After the probationary period, a hearing conducted by the board chair will be held. The affected teacher may be represented by legal counsel and/or a representative of a local or state teachers association. Evidence will be presented by the administrator seeking a probationary period and/or contract termination. The teacher has a chance to refute the allegations and present evidence. Witnesses may be called and cross-examined.
    • Decision: Within 15 days, the board will determine whether to retain the teacher, immediately discharge the teacher, or discharge the teacher upon termination of the current contract.
    • Appeals: The teacher can then appeal the board's decision.
    • More detailed information on the process can be found in Idaho Code 33-513.

Are administrators audited for their evaluations?

Yes. Each year, a committee scrutinizes the evaluations completed by a random sampling of administrators across the state. Here's what the process entails:

  • The sample group is selected: About 15% of administrators statewide are selected (they are pulled equally from each of the state’s six regions). For each administrator chosen, two teacher evaluations and one support staff evaluation are selected.
  • Selected administrators and teachers answer a survey about their perceptions on the efficacy/fairness of the evaluation process: The staff members whose evaluations were chosen are given a chance to provide feedback on how their administrator did as an evaluator; the administrator gets a chance to self-reflect as well.
  • Independent reviewers assess evaluations for compliance: That evidence is then examined by a team of experienced independent reviewers (including current and former public education leaders and faculty from Idaho educator preparation programs) to determine if each selected administrator has conducted their evaluations in compliance with state requirements.
  • Reviewers visit certain districts or charters: Members of that team then visit LEAs “who were identified as having exceptional strengths or challenges in their evaluation practice.” The visits, which involved interviews, targeted feedback, and dialogue aim to “inform improvements to the implementation of evaluation policies around the state.”
  • Findings are eventually published on the State Board of Education's website.

What happens when an administrator is found noncompliant?

  • If an administrator is found to be out of compliance, efforts "should focus on clarifying guidance on parts of the framework that remain unclear and ensuring that corrective accountability measures are well-focused only on those whose lack of compliance is persistent in the face of feedback," according to findings from the State Board's fiscal year 2022 report.
  • Here's what happened with prior cases of non-compliance: In 2016, the Idaho Professional Standards Commission reprimanded two former K-12 superintendents — Sugar-Salem superintendent Alan Dunn and New Plymouth superintendent Ryan Kerby — for violating state law and ethics rules by submitting inaccurate teacher evaluation data to the state.
Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

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