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Are Nevada teacher evaluations making the grade?

State working to make change to evaluation system
Are teacher evaluations making the grade?
Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 21:23:24-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Ninety-seven percent of Nevada teachers are rated "effective" or higher under the framework set for evaluating their performance with just one-tenth of one percent of teachers ranked as "mostly ineffective."

Even those tasked with setting up the Nevada Educator Performance Framework acknowledge those numbers are reflective of the true needs and performance of the state's teachers. With the Teachers and Leaders Council chairwoman saying a split in the rankings created an unintended consequence.

"It has resulted in us being unwilling to rate a teacher as developing and in all honesty most novice teachers, certainly when I was a novice teacher should have been rated as developing," Pam Salazar said.

Salazar is leading the TLC panel through an evaluation of the NEPF established by state lawmakers in 2011. The group sending recommendations to the Nevada Board of Education recommending changes to that framework.

As it currently sits, the NEPF ranks teachers on a 1 to 4 scale, from mostly ineffective to highly effective.

But those ratings are currently skewed to the higher end:

- Highly effective - 16.74 percent of teachers

- Effective - 80.11 percent of teachers

- Developing - 1.34 percent of teachers

- Mostly ineffective- .11 percent of teachers

Those working to fine tune the system say that is the result of state laws that split the system to put those in the bottom half of the scale on a path for dismissal.

"If they are labeled as developing they are now going to be placed on this track to quote dismissal," Salazar said.

That is where members of the TLC, including Clark County Education Association Vice President Theo Small, say the NEPF had unintended consequences.

"The administrators goes I don't want to lose this teacher because I give them a developing or ineffective evaluation," Small said. "A lot of times we are not able to give that honest feedback, because if we do we may be losing that teacher. "

As the TLC continues working to fine-tune the NEPF, others in the education field say the teacher evaluation system would be better off starting back at square one.

"The system is not designed in a way to give accurate feedback," Nevada Succeeds Founder and President Brent Husson said.

One of Husson's concerns with the system is it doesn't provide an avenue for training.

"Any evaluation system has to be designed to be a help to teachers to get better. Bottom line is we don't have enough teachers, so firing our way to more competency is not an option."

Husson said there are shining examples of principals in Clark County School District who provide feedback and development opportunities for their teachers, but there is not a system in place to help them share those tools with other struggling schools.

"The things we do really well in certain areas are not transferred to places where it isn't working. We don't have a system for the transfer of that knowledge," Husson said. "If you want to boil down what we need to fix education in Nevada, that is it in a nutshell."

As the TLC continues working on the recommendations being sent to the Board of Education, with the eventual goal of getting them in front of lawmakers, Salazar said that information sharing is on their radar.

"Your goal is to take a novice teacher, a struggling teacher and provide the support to them so that teacher can be successful," Salazar said.

The chairwoman adding the first priority is making the evaluations less punitive and recognizing teachers want to get better at their jobs.

"We recognize the majority of our teachers are trying to make a positive impact and we want them to continue to grow," Salazar said.

It is unclear exactly when the Board of Education will consider the recommendations from the TLC because agendas for upcoming meetings have not been posted.

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Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.