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New report says states making “unprecedented” teacher evaluation changes

teacher-evaluation New teacher evaluation policies are being developed across states, but states still have a long way to go in connecting the data from these evaluations to action—specifically when it comes to either rewarding or disciplining teachers, and developing professional development programs, according to a new report.

Spurred partly by federal Race to the Top program funds, as well as by federal conditions to be followed by states pursuing waivers of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), “the widespread adoption of more rigorous teacher evaluation policies represents a seismic shift rarely seen in education policy in general or state teacher policy specifically,” according to the report.

The report, “Connecting the Dots: Using Evaluations of Teacher Effectiveness to Inform Policy and Practice,” by Kathryn Doherty and Sandi Jacobs, was released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)—a non-partisan research and policy organization.

(Next page: Evaluation measures, and using data)

Though NCTQ President Kate Walsh emphasized that states have made “huge” strides in improving evaluation designs to focus on student learning, “there is a lot more that has to happen,” she said. “We have to take what we learn from these evaluations and apply it to educator practice and policies so that all kids have effective educators. Until we connect the dots between the evaluations and stronger policies that improve teacher performance, we will be missing the point of teacher evaluation and selling teachers and students short.”

To better help educators, administrators, and schools understand the “lay of the land on state educator evaluation policy in 2013,” the report highlighted 10 key findings:

1. Annual evaluations: In 2009, only 15 states required annual evaluations of all teachers, with some states permitting educators to go five years or more between evaluations. In 2013, 27 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) now require annual evaluations for all teachers.

2. Objective measures: In 2009, only four states required evidence of student learning to be the most significant criterion for evaluations. In 2013, 19 states and DCPS requires student growth and achievement to be the preponderant criterion, and another 16 states require it to count to a “significant extent,” says the report.

3. Multiple measures: 27 states require teacher ratings to be based on multiple measures of student growth and achievement. Almost every state (44 and DCPS) requires classroom observations to be incorporated into educator evaluations. Also, 17 states now require or allow surveys of students, parents, and/or peers.

4. Using data: Most states “have yet to connect the dots,” says the report, with little policy in place to use information about teacher performance “in ways that can improve practice and ensure that all students have effective teachers.” According to the report, only eight states (Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) and DCPS are “ahead of the curve” in development of teacher policies that are “well-informed by evaluations of teacher effectiveness.”

5. Tenure and licensure: Only 18 states and DCPS require that tenure decisions must be informed by teacher evaluation ratings; and only 8 states use teacher evaluations to determine licensure advancement.

(Next page: Rewards and layoffs)

6. Professional development (PD): 19 states and DCPS specifically require in their state policy that teacher evaluation results be used to inform and shape PD for all teachers.

7. Punishment and reward: 25 states and DCPS require that teachers with poor evaluations be placed on an improvement plan. And almost as many states (22 and DCPS) have policies that ensure that persistent classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for a teacher to be dismissed. However, there are only five states (Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Utah) states and DCPS directly tie teacher compensation to teacher evaluation results.

“In most professions, performance matters and good performance is rightfully rewarded with promotions and salary increases,” according to the report. “But not in teaching.”

8. Layoffs: Not even half (14 and DCPS) of the states with ambitious evaluations policies require district to use teacher performance to inform staffing decision in the event layoffs are necessary.

“Today, the overwhelming majority of school districts use seniority as the only determinant of teacher layoff decisions,” explains the report.”

9. Sharing data: Just eight states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) require that teacher effectiveness ratings must be reported school by school, “an important indicator of how equitably effective teachers are distributed within and among school district,” notes the report.

10. Teacher preparation: Only eight states have adopted policies connecting the performance of students to their teachers and the institutions where their teachers were trained. Only three states (Florida, Illinois, and Tennessee) use information from teacher evaluations to place teaching candidates with effective teacher mentors.

The full report also goes into detail about system structure, state oversight, and specific evaluations in every state; it also details 15 lessons and recommendations for the “vast majority of states” still in the process of designing teacher evaluation systems.

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