NEWCASTLE — A teacher and school administrator evaluation system was the topic of discourse during a second day of interim legislative meetings here last week.
Lawmakers grappled with questions about what makes a good teacher, whether student performance should be tied to a teacher’s evaluation, and how far the state should reach in holding its teachers and administrators accountable while still allowing for control at the school district level. An advisory committee to the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability is developing the state’s first standardized teacher-leader evaluation system as outlined in the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.
In responding to the committee’s preliminary draft of the evaluation system, legislators repeatedly voiced concerns that standardizing a definition of a good teacher or good principal could hinder a district’s authority to try new, out-of-the-ordinary ideas for education.
“I don’t want a system by where the locals — say, a group of teachers — wants to create a new model of instruction ... and the administrator says, ‘No. We can’t do it because we can’t evaluate it,’” Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, said. “Then that’s all wrong.”
Though still in its early stages of development, the new system proposes evaluating teachers on how successfully their students move toward individual learning goals, how their students’ standardized test scores improve year-over-year, how well a teacher manages a classroom and knows a content area, among other indicators, according to a draft report provided to the committee. The report indicates teachers would be categorized annually as highly effective, needs improvement or ineffective.
Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, stressed the complex mathematical formula used to weight each component of a teacher’s evaluation should be understandable, so teachers and principals can use the resulting performance data to improve instruction quality.
“If at the end of the day we have this very expensive, elaborate system ... and the data didn’t do what it was supposed to do, we really haven’t achieved much,” Nicholas said.
“The idea is that we can report the information in ways that it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in mathematics to understand,” Scott Marion, associate director of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment Inc., said. The Dover, N.H.-based Center for Assessment is supporting the advisory committee as it develops the new evaluation system.
At the conclusion of its meeting, the select committee passed a motion to support a system that incorporates local control to the greatest extent possible, while identifying statewide standards for how administrators should evaluate their teachers under the new system.