The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Utah does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.
The state's policy requires local districts to conduct teacher evaluations. However, it requires that educator evaluation programs use multiple measures including self-evaluation, student and parent input, peer observation, supervisor observation, evidence of professional growth, student achievement data and other indicators of instructional improvement.
For teachers participating in Utah's "career ladder" program, an optional program in which teachers can earn additional income for taking on new responsibilities, the state requires that "student progress shall play a significant role in teacher evaluation."
In addition, Utah has recently adopted a new board rule that outlines criteria for teacher evaluation systems, which must incorporate "valid and reliable measuring tools," including observations of instructional quality, evidence of student growth, and parent and student input.
Utah Code 53A-9-103 and 53A-10-106 Utah HB 264 (2009) Board Rule R277-531
Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Although Utah is commended for requiring districts to use student achievement data in its teacher evaluations, it falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. The state should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom.
Ensure that classroom observations specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Utah commendably requires classroom observations as part of teacher evaluations, the state should articulate guidelines that focus classroom observations on the quality of instruction, as measured by student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective and efficient use of class time.
Utilize rating categories that meaningfully differentiate among various levels of teacher performance.
To ensure that the evaluation instrument accurately differentiates among levels of teacher performance, Utah should require districts to utilize multiple rating categories, such as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective. A binary system that merely categorizes teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory is inadequate.
Utah was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that by spring 2012, it will determine the percentages of these elements for a consistent measure. "A statewide evaluation framework with these elements, timelines and other processes must drive all evaluation systems." Utah also noted that a statewide model evaluation system for educators is being developed for adoption by districts during the 2012-2013 school year.