Utah Ed Board Grapples with Conflicting Laws

Teacher evaluation and student achievement data are caught in the crossfire of contradictory statutes.

by / October 30, 2012 0

At least three Utah statutes provide conflicting instructions to schools on teacher evaluation and student achievement data -- and the State Board of Education is searching for direction on what to tell schools.

The Utah Code statutes in question deal with score reporting for the state's standardized tests, rules for the administration of testing and reports of educator ratings.

The score reporting statute says that school districts and charter schools should give parents a comprehensive report of their children's test scores over the years. School staff can also see the report as appropriate, and it's made available to the public on request.

The testing administration statute calls for test score averages at the classroom level. This information can be shared with parents and school staff annually. It also provides for reports on individual student year-to-year progress in different classes.

The educator ratings statute says the State Board of Education should make rules that protect individual educator evaluation data. Another section clarifies that educators can be evaluated by multiple means including student achievement data, supervisor observations and evidence of professional growth.

Debra Roberts, chair of the Utah State Board of Education, said the board was trying to figure out how to create a rule to honor all of these statutes, and in an August meeting, decided to create a rule that would allow principals to share classroom-level data with parents in each teacher's class.

"We thought we had hit that compromise, we were moving forward on that compromise," she said, "and essentially the union came back and said that they had troubles with us sharing any kind of data that could in any way be linked to any kind of evaluation."

As a result of the union's objections, the board decided not to pursue the rule in an October meeting. After the election is over in November, the board plans to put together a committee of board members and legislators that will evaluate the statutes, their conflicting instructions about data sharing, and work out a compromise.

"I would hope that we could make very clear within statute what the policy is, what is the level of transparency that we believe in while still protecting student private data, how do we believe this links and what should be shared in terms of teacher evaluation data," Roberts said. 

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.