Nevada delays start of new teacher evaluations

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Nevada state lawmakers have agreed to delay for another year a new statewide performance evaluation system for public school teachers and administrators.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee voted unanimously Thursday for the delay after hearing the high-stakes program wasn’t ready to begin this fall. It’s the latest in a series of holdups for the system, which originally was supposed to be set up by June 2013.

Concerns have been raised in the past the program could be unfair to principals and teachers being assessed, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the committee was told more work was needed to ensure using student achievement data in evaluations is legally defensible.

State Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said while lawmakers want to move forward, the state needs a good product before evaluations can begin.

The delayed program would give teachers and school-level administrators one of four designations, from ineffective to highly effective, based on their evaluations. The scoring system would be based half on student performance data and half on an administrator’s observations under five standards.

In a letter to the committee, Clark County schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said while progress has been made toward implementation, a delay was necessary. The sprawling Las Vegas-based district is the fifth-largest in the nation, with some 315,000 students and 18,000 teachers at more than 350 campuses.

StudentsFirst, a national organization headed by former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee, expressed disappointment about the latest postponement. The group supports performance-based teacher evaluations.

“Our local districts are failing to live up to the requirements set by the governor and Legislature,” the group said in a statement. “Our students can’t afford additional delays.”

State lawmakers and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2011 touted teacher evaluations as a key piece of a package of education overhauls to improve education in the Silver State. But Nevada and other states have had trouble implementing evaluation programs.

Last year, with millions of dollars in federal funding for Nevada’s low-income schools and English language learners at stake, the U.S. Department of Education agreed to give Nevada until 2016-17 to begin tying hiring and firing decisions to teacher evaluations.

Of 34 states officials said were eligible for an extension, 12 applied. Nevada and Mississippi were the first to be approved.


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