Sweetwater School District #1 Explores Subjectivity on Teacher Evaluations

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Photo from an event at Sage Elementary in Sweetwater County School District #1.

ROCK SPRINGS — Less subjective teacher evaluations were a major topic discussed at the Sweetwater County School District #1 board of trustees meeting this week.

District Director of Human Resources Nicole Bolton provided a lengthy presentation on progress toward improved teacher evaluations, and reasons why some teachers and other employees have left the district prior to retirement.

Bolten sent out 40 questionnaires and received 23 responses, from 21 former teachers and two former staff members.

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Family reasons were the most-often cited concerns given for early resignation, Bolton said, with some former employees simply wanting to be closer to home.

The District recruits heavily from Utah and Idaho, Superintendent Kelly McGovern said, with the result that teacher salaries need to be higher in Wyoming in order to attract, and keep, out-of-state teacher recruits.
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Reduction in Subjective Judgements Needed

Teacher evaluations need to be more precise, Bolton said, with a reduction in subjective judgments.

“Words like ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ can mean different things to a teacher and to an administrator,” Bolton said.

Particularly necessary are clear reasons for why a teacher evaluation may change over time, Bolton said, adding, “If a teacher evaluation goes from ‘distinguished’ to ‘satisfactory’ there may be reasons for it but I would want to know. There are some evaluations that simply say, ‘teaches math class’.”

There will likely be state legislation necessary to implement new teacher evaluation methods, Bolton said.
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Establishing the Standards

A state committee is currently meeting to establish “leadership standards” for school districts.

Seven leadership standards in particular are standing out so far:

  1. Clear and consistent focus on maximizing the learning and growth of all students,
  2. Instructional and assessment leadership,
  3. Developing and supporting a learning organization,
  4. Vision, mission & culture
  5. Efficient & effective management
  6. Ethics & professionalism,
  7. Communication & community involvement.

Regarding the first criterion, that has always been the goal for school districts, Trustee Carol Jelaco explained following the meeting, but now the language is being clarified and set down.