Improving Education Performance

In the 2012 legislative session, lawmakers took the opportunity to pass legislation to create tools for evaluating educators, administrators and students all of which is aimed at improving individual performance.

One such bill introduced by Sen. Aaron Osmond (SB 64) and passed by both houses with a strong majority provides for an evaluation process of school teachers and administrators. It received the endorsement of the UEA, State Board of Education, PTA and several other prominent groups promoting the improvement of public education in Utah. The bill requires an annual evaluation of both administrators and teachers through a program to be established and administered by a local school board committee made up of classroom teachers, parents and administrators. Any teacher falling short in certain areas will be provided resources to assist them in correcting deficiencies along with a period of time to implement a plan of improvement. When a teacher’s performance falls short over several evaluation cycles, the bill provides for a process of non-renewal or termination, but only after notice, support and a period of time to correct the deficiencies. Future pay increases for both administrators and teachers will be tied to the results of the performance evaluation. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this legislation was the process by which it came about. Over the course of many months, Sen. Osmond met with teachers, parents, community education leaders and with members of the public in meetings held throughout the state to discuss the evaluation process. Undoubtedly this process led to the bill’s broad support and strong endorsements.

Another bill dealing with student evaluation was run by our own Sen. Steve Urquhart (SB 286), which would direct the State Board of Regents to develop an online assessment tool to test a high school student’s readiness to attend college. Students would be able to use the results of the assessment to better prepare their for college and to develop a plan to address any deficiencies before graduation. The online program will include self help modules to assist the student improve in weak areas. Many high school graduates are entering college but lacking preparation in key academic skill sets that are needed to ensure their success in college and completion of their degree. A college degree may not be the goal of every student, but for those who planning on attending college after high school, an early assessment of their aptitude for college combined with self improvement tools intended to assist them by strengthening any weak areas requiring additional attention would be extremely valuable to the student.

Very few of us enjoy having our performance critiqued and evaluated by others, but sustained improvement over time requires an evaluation and assessment process. However, whether evaluating educators or students, we need to make sure that the process is fair with its primary objective aimed at encouraging and supporting self-improvement.

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