Teachers inspired to ‘take the lead’ at leadership training


“We are in this together,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher Fishbaugh as she welcomed participants to the 2013 UEA Summer Leadership Academy and shared information about new teacher evaluations.

“It is frustrating to be in meetings about education policy with people that don’t understand education,” she said. “Now we have to support our teachers so they have the tools and resources to complete the evaluation process.”

As part of a commitment to ensure every UEA member is successful in their evaluation, the entire focus of the two-day 2013 Leadership Academy was the educator evaluation system required by a state law passed in 2012 (Senate Bill 64). Teams of leaders from every local/UniServ were trained on ways to help UEA members succeed on the evaluations and improve their teaching skills, including details about the Utah Effective Teaching Standards, types of evidence required, Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) and Student Learning Objectives (SLO).

The UEA and Teacher Evaluations

UEA Education Excellence Director Sara Jones explained that there are many ‘lacks’ in the current evaluation system – lack of funding, training, communication and sharing. “The UEA needs to become the organization that fills these needs,” she said. “We will become the experts.”

Jones shared evaluation system requirements under the new law. Each school district has the flexibility to develop its own plan, but it has to meet the minimum state standards she said. Educators will be rated in one of four categories: 1) highly effective, 2) effective, 3) emerging effective (provisional teachers)/minimally effective, or 4) not effective.

She explained that there is nothing in the code that mandates a ‘bell curve,’ or limits on the number of educators rated in each category. Jones also noted that while there is no merit pay built into the law, performance is now tied to pay via evaluations.

“State law requires the evaluation tools to be both reliable and valid,” said Jones. The code requires reporting of the data as well, but it also requires the protection of individual teacher data, she said.

Utah Effective Teaching Standards

Granite UniServ Director Star Orullian and Northern UniServ Director Hilaree Stephens explained the Utah Effective Teaching Standards and how they will be applied to new teacher evaluations. “State or district teaching standards are a resource for teachers so they can self-assess,” said Stephens. “The standards show teachers are skilled practitioners.”

Orullian explained that some school districts have their own standards but they match state standards. She said some standards are hard to measure, but they are the standards being used to build the evaluation tool. Teachers will need to become familiar with the standards because they are the basis for the evaluations.

Observation Tools and Evidence Gathering

Academy participants worked on lines of evidence that will help UEA members with their own evaluations. In less than an hour, participants compiled a list of more than 600 lines of evidence that could be used by member teachers. UniServ Directors Pat Riley and Pat Rusk coordinated the activity.

SGPs and SLOs

Important components of the new educator evaluation system are Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) and Student Learning Objectives (SLO). Jordan Education Association President Jennifer Boehme was joined by UniServ Directors Cindy Carroll and Matt Ogle in sharing information about these topics.

Tested subjects will primarily be measured using SGP values from computer adaptive testing called SAGE (Student Achievement for Growth & Excellence), they explained. This testing has three parts: summative adaptive, intermediate (optional), and formative (will replace UTIPs).

SLOs will be used primarily to measure non-tested subjects, although all teachers will likely be required to develop SLOs. “Each teacher, by (the) 2014-15 (school year), will need two SLOs, one individual and one shared,” said Boehme. “(The shared SLO) could be by team, by subject or by grade.” She reminded the group that the measure is growth, not proficiency.

Carroll pointed out that to date there are more questions than answers. “As we go back to our schools, know your teachers will have lots of questions,” she said. Many decisions about measurement have not yet been determined by the Utah State Office of Education and the State School Board.

An Organizing Opportunity

UEA Executive Director Mark Mickelsen shared key organizing concepts with participants. “The key is to listen and to ask questions,” he said. “As you formulate your (local school district) plans remember relationships are the key.”

Granite Education Association President Susan Zobel and Vice President Kathleen Riebe discussed the importance of maintaining a strong membership base. “What does an effective organization look like,” asked Riebe. “It has strong membership and good relationships.”

A key to membership and relationships is a trained Association Representative, explained Zobel. “ARs should be encouraged to personally contact each potential member,” she said. “Relationship building with administration is also key.”

“When it comes to membership, put your money where it will do the most good to increase membership,” said Riebe. She explained that in Granite they have incentive programs such as money for new members. “Membership is a year-round program,” she said. “The motto is ‘membership is everybody’s business’.”

Academy participants also heard presentations on Power Mapping and ways to use data in organizing.

Evaluation Experts

Many of those trained during the 2013 UEA Leadership Academy are now “Evaluation Experts.” Representing each UniServ, these volunteers will continue to receive training and updated information on evaluations as the evaluation process moves to its full implementation in 2015-16. The “Evaluation Experts” have three primary goals:

(1) To help members successfully navigate all of the changes to educator evaluations that are the result of new state policy;

(2) To work in their local associations and UniServs as a trainer, expert and resource to leaders and members regarding the new evaluation requirements; and

(3) To work directly with members supporting them with information and resources to be successful in an evaluation.

The next UEA Summer Leadership Academy will be held June 11-12, 2014.

See more information about evaluations on the UEA Educator Evaluation page.

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