UPDATE: The legislation was passed by the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 33-1, with no discussion.
Members of Senate Education gave first approval Tuesday to a bill that will establish professional teaching standards and mandate that schools perform teacher evaluations.
The plan, found in SB 24, was proposed by the South Dakota Department of Education.
Melody Schopp, state director of teacher quality, told lawmakers that creation of teaching performance standards would provide a pathway for teachers to improve throughout their career. Establishing the standards would provide teachers a way to evaluate their own performance and help provide administrators some guidance, Schopp said.
The teaching standards, including suggestions for mentoring new teachers, would be developed by a 17-member work group and eventually adopted by the state board of education. The same group will later develop a model teacher evaluation that districts may use, but aren't required to implement.
As drafted, the legislation mandated teacher evaluations each year.
ASBSD Executive Director Wayne Lueders asked lawmakers to modify the bill, providing districts with flexibility to provide more frequent evaluations during the first three years of employment. Lueders also asked that districts have more flexibility for more experienced teachers that may not need to be evaluated annually.
Lawmakers endorsed the changes, and then voted to support the measure.
The bill will eventually lead to a three-step teacher licensing procedure, Schopp said. The teaching standards would be used to create categories of teachers – beginning teachers, professional teachers and instructional leaders – and identify how teachers would move from one level to the next.
Unlike legislation in previous years, the bill does not tie the tiered licensure system to teacher compensation – something the Lueders said would be hard for the school board association to support.
“If you're going to mandate funding with the tiered licensure system, then we have some concerns about how that's going to work,” Lueders said.
When asked, Schopp offered little details about how the three-step licensing system would work, telling lawmakers that the outcome of the work group would determine how the professional pathway will work.