- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The latest review of Idaho’s teacher evaluation system found that 64 percent of the selected evaluations were in compliance with state law.

Blake Youde, spokesman for the State Board of Education, told lawmakers Thursday that an 18-member review board vetted evaluations from 77 school districts conducted during the 2015-2016 school year.

According to the report, 49 percent of the evaluations met the state’s entire criteria, while an additional 15 percent met the minimum standards but varied in their rating method.

Idaho’s teacher evaluation system is increasingly getting more scrutiny as teacher pay will become more closely tied to specific performance criteria starting later this year.

The change is part of a five-year pay plan designed to attract and retain teachers. Idaho lawmakers approved the so-called career ladder in 2015.

However, ever since the passage of the career ladder, the evaluation system has been mired in contention after the release of the first audit last year.

The review - overseen by the state Department of Education and not the education board - found that nearly all of the selected evaluations were incomplete during the 2014-15 school year under a specific teacher evaluation model that Idaho teachers can comply with but are not required to follow.

Those findings were immediately picked apart by school administrators who criticized the audit, arguing that the state set the consultations to compare apples to oranges and thus inadvertently undermined the trust that schools are properly vetting their teachers.

Questions of possible conflict of interest arose after a report by The Associated Press showed that Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra quietly worked with the same company that audited the state’s teacher evaluation system to build a replacement model while the audit was still underway.

On Thursday, the Board of Education and lawmakers stressed the latest report’s objectivity and methodology.

“This report is based on a methodology that the board believes is sound … with valid findings,” Youde said. “Moving forward, we hope the legislators will find that the appropriation request for the career ladder in year three is indeed a sound investment.”

The report was presented to the state Senate and House education panels. Lawmakers praised the report, with several members saying they hoped the board’s report would put at ease any unrest surrounding the state’s teacher evaluation system.

“I believe this report has given us a great deal of confidence in our evaluation process and even more importantly in the instruction and the quality of that instructions in our schools,”

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