Education reform bill passes Legislature after agreement to keep teacher accountability



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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — State lawmakers have approved a bill that continues Wyoming's effort at K-12 education reform after resolving a disagreement over teacher accountability provisions.

The House version of Senate File 8 had removed a section requiring the development of a state teacher accountability system.

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said teacher accountability is a key part of education reform along with school, district and leader accountability.

Rep. John Freeman, D-Green River, said the rationale for removing teacher accountability was districts were more comfortable with an existing teacher evaluation system approved in 2010. Freeman said several superintendents told him they wanted to retain local control over their teacher evaluations, rather than answer to the state.

Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, said he was concerned that teachers would be labeled the same way schools are currently labeled, as "not meeting" or "meeting" expectations. He said that nowhere else in state government are employees labeled in such a way.

But Coe questioned how each of the state's school districts can be held accountable to a statewide standard if each district has a different way of evaluating its teachers.

And he said the whole reason the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act was proposed in the first place was because the state wasn't seeing the results it wanted, given the billions it was spending on education.

Sen. Jim D. Anderson, R-Glenrock, said that as a former teacher himself, he believed the only way to make positive changes in state education would be to have consistent standards for teachers. Just as a teacher needs to push students to excel, he said the state must push teachers to excel.

"If we leave it up to (the school districts), I don't think we'll ever achieve to the level that parents and our constituencies expect us to," he said.

The two sides agreed to restore teacher accountability and to have more discussion about teacher accountability during the interim, including more input from school districts about how the accountability system should ultimately take shape.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that following the conference committee agreement, the bill was approved by a vote of 26-3 in the Senate and 40-13 in the House. It heads next to Gov. Matt Mead.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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