Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015   8 comments

An email sent to schools by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) this week was forwarded to me.

It’s gross evidence of a gross circumstance.   The USOE decided that teacher evaluations (read: salaries) will be directly tied to Common Core/SAGE student results starting at the latest next fall (2015-2016 school year).

If teachers didn’t “teach to the Common Core test” before, they will now.

Their  value as a teacher is, by USOE policy, to be determined by SGP –Student Growth Percentile, meaning: the amount of Common Core -based “improvement” that students showed on their Common Core SAGE tests.

It’s a heavy, disrespectful blow to teachers.

I have learned of some teachers who outwardly nod their heads “yes” to administrations and boards but in fact ignore the Common Core standards, continuing to teach the children in their better way, in the same way they always had, prior to Common Core.

How will independent minded teachers survive this new blow?

I don’t know.

I want to remind everyone that many times the USOE has proclaimed that teachers and schools may teach in the manner that in the local, professional judgment, the schools and teachers deem best.  They say Common Core and its tests do not micromanage teachers.

How untrue that claim has been.

Actions speak louder than words.  The state-level threat of teachers losing pay or status, if a particular teacher’s students don’t speed along the Common Core/SAGE test chain, is an almost insurmountable, powerful micromanagement of Utah’s teachers by its government.

Why did Utah allow the USOE to evolve this much power over us?   The USOE, so monstrously staffed, so stuffed full of bureaucrats, consumes many of our precious education dollars but runs un-accountably –to anyone.  And the USOE has zero authority under the Utah Constitution!

Only the State School Board holds constitutional authority of Utah’s education, checked and balanced by the legislature which hold the power of the purse.   The USOE is a deformed, runaway growth, much bigger and heavier than its stem.  Think about it: corrupt though the state board’s election system has been, still, the electing of State Board members has been at least theoretically representative; taxpayers can vote board members out of office.

Not so for the USOE and it’s leadership and staff.  Taxpayers and teachers and parents have zero say in who gets to run our educational show at the USOE level.  We can’t un-elect the writers of that letter, nor can we vote out the vast number of fat-salaried appointees who boss around the teachers, principals and students of this state.

Just as the federal U.S. Department of Education has no Constitutional validity, neither does the USOE have any state-constitutional validity.

I wish school administrators, school boards, the legislature and especially the state board would respond to the USOE with a little spit and vinegar– in defense of teachers and in non-acknowledgement of the assumed authority of the USOE and its policies, schmollisees.

Here’s that letter.




Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2014

From: “Estrada, Christelle” <Christelle.Estrada@schools.utah.gov>

To: “ALL ”

Subject: [Secondary ELA] Clarification – SAGE and SGPs

Colleagues:  I am forwarding this clarification from both the Assessment and the Educator Effectiveness departments at USOE so that you can disseminate it to your fellow teachers.



Dear LEAs,


This E-mail is to clarify possible misunderstandings and up-to-date information in regards to SAGE and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs), and SLOs. The SAGE results for the 2013-14 school year that were released to the public on October 27, 2014 are valid and reliable assessment results.  The results create a new baseline for student achievement.   Educators and parents should seriously review these results and use the results with all of the other educational information and data to support students and assist them in improving their academic achievement.


We would like to clarify the relationship of SAGE results to Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) and to Educator Evaluation in general. The SAGE results you have recently received may be used in all of the ways you have typically used test results to make instructional decisions, inform the school improvement process,  inform professional development, and evaluate programs; however, the 2013-14 SGPs are not calculated for the purposes of educator evaluation, nor to identify schools for focus and priority status under the ESEA waiver.


Business rules for calculating SGPs for educator evaluations are currently being developed by the USOE Educator Effectiveness section in cooperation with the USOE Assessment section. District representatives including Superintendents, HR Directors, Curriculum Directors, Educator Evaluation Liaisons and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to give input to these business rules prior to their implementation in June of 2015. These business rules will be used to generate teacher-level SGPs that may be used for calculation of a portion of the  educator evaluation as early as August 2015, although their use will not be required until the 2015-2016 school year.


Meanwhile, districts should continue to provide professional development and continue to build rater reliability in relation to teacher and leader observations. They should continue to implement their SLO development plans and make choices about how stakeholder input will be gathered and calculated. The Educator Effectiveness team continues to recommend that teachers of both tested and non-tested subjects learn how to develop and use SLOs to provide additional measurement information about student growth.  SGPs will be available for calculating student growth for the 2014-15 school year (they are also available this year), and they will be available to apply to educator evaluation in 2015-16.


If you have additional questions about these topics, please continue to contact any of the following for additional clarification as needed: Linda Alder atlinda.alder@schools.utah.gov<mailto:linda.alder@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7923;  Kerrie Naylor at kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov<mailto:kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov>  or 801-538-7950;   Jo Ellen Shaeffer, joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov<mailto:joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7811.


Please note Utah has a very broad public records law.  Most written communication to or from our state employees regarding state business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.





8 responses to “Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I am a teacher in Utah and I am absolutely HORRIFIED by this. The problem is that we teachers cannot speak out against the Common Core OR the testing or we will be fired. WE NEED PARENTS TO HELP!!!!

    Threatened out West
  2. “Why did Utah allow the USOE to evolve this much power over us?”

    This isn’t about some faceless bureaucrats mucking up the system. this is the proverbial chickens coming home to roost. For decades our state politicians have been gaining leverage against public educators by claiming that the system is broken, that the “government monopoly” needs to be challenged, that incompetent teachers with their “tenure” and cushy jobs need to be held accountable, or even fired en masse if necessary in order to “save” our system. All this ridiculous rhetoric has promoted or just reflected an opinion held by many in our public. As we stand on the edge of these final attacks on our system of public education we have to review how complicit we the public have been in all this. Maybe recognizing our own responsibility and compliclty in the attacks on our public education is the only place to start in order to push back this assault by privatization groups, anti-union crusaders, and billionaire elitists.

  3. Tying teacher pay to evaluations and student performance is actually Utah law, not a policy created by USOE. The most recent bill was Osmond’s SB64 in 2012 which you can read here http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/static/SB0064.html

    It would be more productive to direct your anger at the lawmakers that created this situation, rather than the administrators who are simply complying with the law.

  4. Dear Threatened Out West: Yes, teachers need parents to help. Please write (even anonymously) your experiences and publish them widely– here, at Utahns against common core, in newspaper op-eds, and in emails to the legislature and the local and state school boards. Not to speak is to speak.

    Dear Homer and Postmormon: It’s true that lawmakers and the public have (perhaps somewhat unknowingly) helped to create this problem. Local lawmakers and school boards are surely rubber stamping the blueprints created by the federal government, but calling them “Utah’s own”. This is true for teacher pay tying to student test scores policies; it’s true for common data collection standards and policies; it’s true for behavioral data collection; it’s true for high stakes testing practices. Educating the public is the only thing I can think of that can slow down (or stop) the awful shift in power away from the hands of “the governed” to the hands of corporate-state-federal partnerships.

    • Christel, they (school boards both state and local) have no choice but to rubber stamp the directives of federal and state lawmakers because they are elected officials who are sworn to uphold the laws of the nation and the state. Are you suggesting they violate their oath over disagreements in the law. Instead of putting blame on local boards, we need to put it where it squarely belongs, the lawmakers. The state lawmakers have been much of the problem with or without the feds. It seems like state lawmakers want to micromanage education as much as the feds do. We need both federal and state politicians to butt out of education as much as possible. Nothing good ever comes of hyper-politicizing things that should never be politicized in the first place such as education.

  5. Christel: Thank you for your reply. I have been writing about my concerns for years. Most of the time, my letters are not published in the press. I also write legislators on a regular basis, and I just wrote to a few of them again about this very concern. I have written to state school board members. I have begged teacher associations to speak out against these policies that destroy teachers and schools. I have spoken and written about these issues for years. It’s like shouting into the wind. No one will listen. I will begin commenting on here anonymously. I hope that someone here will listen.

    Threatened out West
  6. It is actually the legislature that is mandating the USOE put in place teacher evaluations due to Sen. Aaron Osmond’s bill on teacher evaluations. Instead of the focus of the blame being put on the USOE or the state school board, it needs to be put on the legislature. The USOE and the state school board is only carrying out the directives of the legislature even though the Utah Constitution tasks the state school board with all education decisions. I know that the creators of this website mean well, but you really need to dig to the heart of the matter and determine who realistically put the pressure on. We basically have a legislature that is overstepping its legal authority and has turned the state school board into a bunch of puppets that are to do its bidding.

  7. Pingback: Ten Reasons To Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE Testing | COMMON CORE

Comments are welcome here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: