Teachers and principals’ own report cards are getting a lot more attention.
The way educators are evaluated is changing across the country, with a switch from routine “satisfactory” ratings to actual proof that students are learning.
President Barack Obama’s recent use of executive authority to revise the No Child Left Behind education law is one of several factors driving a trend toward using student test scores, classroom observation and potentially even input from students, among other measures, to determine just how effective educators are.
A growing number of states are using these evaluations to decide critical issues such as pay, tenure, firings and the awarding of teaching licenses.
Two years ago, only four states used student achievement as a predominant influence in how teacher performance is assessed. Today, the number is 13, according to a recent report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. Ten other states count student achievement in a lesser but still significant way in teacher evaluations. In 19 states and the District of Columbia, teachers can be fired based on the results, the report said.
Even more changes are anticipated in coming months.
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Obama said in September that states wanting relief from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law could apply for a waiver from the law’s tough-to-meet requirements for student achievement in reading and math. To get a waiver, one thing states must do is come up with ways to use teacher and principal evaluations to make personnel decisions.
This week, 11 states applied for waivers, and an additional 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico say they will be seeking waivers, too.
In addition to Obama’s waivers, a major driver has been the administration’s high-profile “Race to the Top” competition, which had states competing for billions in prize dollars if they adopted stronger evaluation systems. Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said another factor is a growing body of research showing that teachers matter in how much students learn and an influential 2009 report by the New Teacher Project revealing that fewer than 1 percent of teachers surveyed receive unsatisfactory ratings — even in failing schools.
Historically, states have considered teacher evaluations to be untouchable, in part because of teachers unions.