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teacher and principal evaluation policy

6 reasons to improve teacher and principal evaluation policies

New analysis finds ample opportunities for state policymakers to implement teacher and principal evaluation systems that drive educator and student success

New data and analysis released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) finds ample opportunities for improvement in states’ teacher and principal evaluation policies. With educator quality as the most powerful in-school factor that contributes to students’ academic success, an essential component to supporting student recovery in the wake of pandemic-related learning loss must be ensuring all students have access to effective teachers and administrators.

Evidence-based teacher and principal evaluation policies, when well-implemented, have great potential to help individual educators strengthen their practice, promote overall improvements in the quality of the workforce, and—most importantly—support increased student achievement.

“Strong, well-implemented teacher and principal evaluation systems can make a big difference for both teachers and students,” said Dr. Heather Peske, NCTQ President. “It’s disappointing to see that states have continued to back away from evidence-based evaluation policies and practices over the past several years, especially when we need to ensure every child has access to great teachers more than ever.”

The new NCTQ report, State of the States 2022: Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policies, presents data and analysis on policies from all 50 states and D.C. covering essential, evidence-based components of teacher and principal evaluation systems. Despite increased state adoption of evidence-based evaluation policies over a decade ago, the most recent data documents a continued decline in the number of states with teacher and principal evaluation requirements in place that research shows have the potential to drive significant improvements in student learning. 

Key findings in the NCTQ data include:

  • Fewer states require that objective measures of student growth be included in a teacher or principal’s evaluation. Helping students to grow academically is core to the role of all educators. Between 2009 and 2015, most states adopted policies that required educator evaluations include some objective measure of student growth, such as student state, district, or school assessment data or data from student learning objectives. However, while 43 states had this requirement for both teacher and principal evaluations in 2015, that number has since dropped to 30 states for teachers and 27 states for principals. While the pandemic may have interrupted assessments, recent declines in student results should reinvigorate states’ focus on student growth.
  • Fewer states now explicitly allow or require that student feedback be incorporated into a teacher’s evaluation. Teacher evaluations that include multiple sources of data, including from student assessments, teacher observations, and student surveys, create a fuller, more accurate picture of a teacher’s performance. Despite evidence that feedback from students is an important component to include in assessing teacher quality and to gauge students’ experiences, only five states now require that student surveys be included in a teacher’s evaluation. Support for including survey data in principal evaluations has also declined, with now only eight states requiring surveys or feedback from students, teachers, parents, and/or peers be included in a principal’s evaluation.

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  • Fewer than half of states require all teachers to be evaluated every year. Every professional, no matter where they are in their career, can benefit from regular feedback and evaluation. While most states (37) require annual evaluation for early-career or probationary teachers, only 22 states require all teachers get this critical feedback that can help them continue to hone their craft. It is more common for states to require annual evaluations for all principals, regardless of experience level, with 30 states maintaining this requirement.
  • Only 14 states ensure that every teacher is observed multiple times as part of their evaluation. Observations and feedback are key to supporting teachers’ growth and development, leading to teachers viewing their evaluation system as more meaningful. Research also shows that including multiple observations, preferably by multiple observers, helps to assess teacher performance. Multiple observations are even more important for new teachers, who need more frequent feedback on their practice to drive improvement. There are 30 states that require multiple observations for early-career teachers, still leaving opportunities for many states to adopt this policy.
  • Many states still do not explicitly require feedback to be provided to teachers after an observation. As schools take on the urgent work of helping students recover from the pandemic, they must ensure that teachers get the timely, specific, and actionable feedback they need to improve. Yet there are 19 states that do not have a policy that requires feedback to teachers after each observation, while two states specifically designate observation feedback as optional. 
  • Many states still do not directly connect teacher evaluation results to professional development. Research suggests that observations are more likely to positively impact teachers’ effectiveness when they are connected directly to professional development opportunities. Yet 20 states do not explicitly connect evaluation results to professional development, missing a critical opportunity to require aligned support to help teachers to improve.

“I see a lot of opportunities here,” continued Dr. Peske. “With the whole education community collectively focused on accelerating student learning, states can seize this moment to reverse some of the declines and stagnation we’ve seen around educator evaluation. I look at these data and see clear steps that state leaders can take to make meaningful improvements to their evaluation systems, in order to help teachers and principals grow, and students learn.”

The new NCTQ report provides examples of stand-out state policies and detailed policy recommendations for state education leaders, including recommendations on how to support quality implementation of these policies.

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