Security cameras have been in schools for years, but several lawmakers want to bring them into the classroom.
Two bills filed this week in the Wyoming Legislature would require videotaped class periods to be part of every teacher's evaluation.
All teachers are evaluated annually by law. Initial-contract teachers are evaluated twice each year.
House Bill 166 would also require all teachers -- on initial and continuing contracts -- to be evaluated in writing every month.
The bill has strong support in both chambers, sponsored by Reps. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, Donald Burkhart, R-Rawlins, Kendell Kroeker, R-Casper, Michael Madden, R-Buffalo, and Matt Teeters, R-Lingle; and Sens. Paul Barnard, R-Evanston, Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, Hank Coe, R-Cody, and Bill Landen, R-Casper.
Harshman, a high school teacher, said the cameras would allow principals and teachers to view and improve instruction. When a principal enters the classroom, students and the teacher act differently, Harshman said.
"The key is being able to see yourself teach," Harshman said.
The changes would require principals to focus on mentoring and helping teachers, Harshman said. He expects monthly evaluations to last no longer than 20 minutes.
"It's not about what we teach any more -- it's about what students learn," Harshman said.
Filming lessons happens in schools now, but is determined by the teacher and evaluator, said Kathryn Valido, president of the Wyoming Education Association. She's not sure cameras in every classroom would be a wise use of state money.
"Equipment is one cost -- the other is in staff," Valido said.
Wyoming school districts are in the process of reviewing and revising teacher evaluations to follow new guidelines from the state Board of Education. The guidelines require evaluations to be equitable, based on research and include student performance data.
Valido said that mandates from the Legislature in the middle of the revision process might interrupt hard work being done in districts. The state board guidelines allow school districts to develop evaluation systems that work best in their schools and automatically have employee buy-in, Valido said.
A second bill, sponsored by Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, takes the evaluation a step further, requiring an instructional facilitator or seasoned teacher and parent representative to view the video-recorded lesson with the teacher and principal. The parent representative would report monthly to the school board.
The system would be piloted in four districts of varying size, with $210,000 to cover the cost of equipment.
Current state law does not allow instructional facilitators, or teacher coaches, to directly supervise or evaluate teachers. Valido said including a parent in a professional evaluation would be "inappropriate."
The bills are the latest of several proposed this session to reform the teaching profession. A bill (HB 72) that would tie teacher evaluations to pay increases passed the House Education Committee last week. A bill (SF 52) to remove "continuing-contract" status, known as the "teacher tenure bill," is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate Education Committee on Friday.
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