teacher evaluation

The teacher evaluation mistake 28 states are making

A new report sheds light on how the teacher evaluation system preserves the status quo--and why that may be a mistake.

A growing number of states award teachers a rating of effective or higher even if those teachers score poorly on student learning, according to a new study from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Currently, 30 states use evidence of student learning as part of teacher evaluations. Some of those states give teachers an “effective” rating even if they earn the lowest possible score on their ability to increase student learning.

The report, Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises, shows how regulations and guidance from state educational agencies allow schools to continue to rate nearly all teachers effective.

“State legislators made a big deal about their changes to teacher evaluations. They claimed new laws ensure that only teachers who proved their ability to raise student achievement would be rated effective or better,” said Kate Walsh, President and Founder of NCTQ. “Unfortunately, state education agencies preserved the status quo by creating giant loopholes in the criteria for how teachers can earn an effective rating.”

Only 2 of the 30 states–Indiana and Kentucky–have clearly-articulated policies requiring teachers to meet specific student learning goals in order to achieve an “effective” rating.

(Next page: How the remaining states don’t uphold what should be a rigorous teacher evaluation system)

In the remaining states, a teacher who earns a poor score on student growth measures may still obtain an “effective” rating if that teacher has high scores on observations and other non-growth factors. This essentially negates any real influence of the student growth component, according to the report.

“As a result, the percentage of teachers rated effective or higher has been relatively consistent,” said Elizabeth Ross, Managing Director of State Policy at NCTQ. “Despite state efforts, nearly all teachers continue to earn ratings of effective or higher, despite student test scores and research which indicates that these ratings are unlikely to accurately reflect teachers’ performance.

“Retaining the status quo prevents schools, districts, and states from reliably basing key personnel decisions on evaluation ratings,” said Ross. “States should not, as a matter of policy, strive to give more teachers poor ratings; however, if all teachers are labeled effective, then schools, districts, and states cannot use evaluation results to intervene to support teachers who would benefit from more help.”

Student growth is an important factor because evidence shows that teachers who increase students’ learning positively influence students’ immediate and long-term outcomes, the report notes.

The report also urges states to improve existing evaluation policies. NCTQ suggests states prevent teachers from earning an effective rating if they are ineffective at increasing student learning by, at the very least, ensuring that teachers cannot be rated effective if they receive the lowest possible rating on the student growth component of their evaluation.

The report also suggests that under ESSA, states have an opportunity to carefully consider the impact of student growth in their teacher evaluation systems. As states continue their work to improve teacher quality, teacher evaluation should evolve from compliance to a process that identifies a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to support continual development.

Laura Ascione

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