Bill to support teachers, evaluate performance advances

Education • Experienced teachers would mentor newcomers.
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A bill intended to better support new and underperforming teachers — and help decide whether struggling teachers should be fired — advanced in the House Wednesday.

The House Education Committee voted 11-3 in favor of HB115, which would allow districts to apply for grants to create peer-assistance and review programs. Under such programs, districts would release certain experienced teachers from classroom duty, at least part-time for a few years, so they could mentor new and struggling teachers. Those mentors would also be responsible for regularly evaluating those teachers, and would make recommendations to district panels about whether specific teachers need more help, should be hired for another year or fired.

Bill sponsor Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said such a program is needed to help stem the loss of teachers in their first few years. Sydnee Dickson, of the State Office of Education, said about 38 percent of teachers leave in their first five years, according to the most recent data available. Moss is asking for $300,000 to start the program.

"We're losing too many promising young teaches who want to succeed in the classroom, then when they start, they find themselves isolated and overwhelmed with little support to help them achieve their goals," Moss said.

Many lawmakers spoke in support of the idea, saying teachers could use the additional support. Several others, however, expressed concerns. Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said the proposal contains some good ideas but he doesn't see the need for a legislative program to put it in place.

The bill now goes to the House floor.