OGDEN -- Teachers in the Ogden School District may not be the only Utah educators to find student achievement linked to their employment evaluations.
The Utah State Board of Education has approved the second reading of a proposed policy that would make all 41 districts statewide incorporate student achievement into their measure of teacher worth. The board votes in September on final approval of the rule, which would take effect in the 2012-13 school year.
Don Belnap, Ogden School Board president, said he has not yet thoroughly reviewed the state's proposed rule.
"I don't think it would have had any impact on the decision we made," Belnap said Tuesday. "It doesn't surprise me. People are always looking for ways to improve how things work. It's nice to know the state is wanting to do the same thing. "
The Ogden School District surprised teachers in early July with a new, non-negotiated contract and an ultimatum to sign or lose their jobs. Teachers signed but also protested the board's actions. A contract provision that merit pay would be phased in to replace a years-of-experience-based raise system was one of the main sticking points for local protesters.
"If we need to make adjustments based upon the plans of the state, we will make the appropriate upgrades as we learn more of their plans," Belnap said.
Sydnee Dickson, director of teaching and learning at the Utah State Office of Education, said the proposed state rule has great support, in part because people involved with so many different elements of education had input. About 25 people were on the research committee.
"We had buy-in from various groups beforehand," Dickson said.
A model for how to measure student improvement should be ready by spring, 2012, Dickson said. Besides test scores, other measurements are likely to include in-class observation; feedback from students' and parents' surveys; and interviews between administrators and teachers. Dickson said offering teachers training opportunities will be a big part of the process.
During the July protests, some Ogden teachers voiced concern that the district's demographic could thwart teachers' efforts to help students improve test scores. The district has many low- income and single-parent families, and numerous students for whom English is a second language.
Dickson said state officials understand that school districts face different challenges, and all would be factored into the final plan.
The suggestion to make student achievement a factor in teacher evaluations is part of a larger initiative to improve the effectiveness of education in Utah, she said. Other areas targeted for improvement include leadership, teacher training and recruitment.
Dickson said her committee is working with experts from across the nation to develop a model for measuring teacher effectiveness that Utah school districts can adopt. Rural districts that don't have the resources to develop their own systems can adopt the state's, and districts with systems in place for measuring teacher effectiveness can use the new research to update the policies they have in place, she said.
Belnap said he knew the State Office of Education was working on improving leadership, which is also a priority for the Ogden School District.
"We are not waiting to see what recommendations they have," he said. "We will go forward and see what they come up with, and will use the good they have with the good we have in efforts to improve our leadership."
As for measuring teacher effectiveness, Belnap said he is eager to see how the state's model comes together.
"We are willing to look at numerous scenarios and suggestions, but it is vital that we have input from our teachers and the Ogden School District will start our own talks in the future after our students are back in school."