Teacher evaluation: what’s urgent and important?

As states struggle to implement new evaluation systems, what (or more to the point, who) is missing?

A recent Government Accountability Office report indicates the shortcomings of the Obama Administration’s efforts to overhaul the nation’s diffuse teaching evaluation systems. As noted by Education Week reporter Alyson Klein, “Sustaining the new evaluation systems is going to be a tall order.”

Here’s some evidence:

  • Unstable measures. In some states, large numbers of effective teachers (with their abilities well-documented by their principals) earned low value-added scores as a result of their students’ performance on a single standardized test.
  • Uncertainty about how to evaluate teachers of non-tested subjects. School system administrators did not know how to hold some teachers accountable for student learning gains.
  • Out-of-sync standards and assessments. Teachers pointed out that they are already beginning to teach students in ways consistent with the Common Core State Standards. Meanwhile, they are being evaluated on the basis of outdated tests that do not reflect the new standards.
  • Lack of funding. State departments of education are struggling to support their evaluation systems—especially in rural, under-resourced school communities. In fact, officials from ten of the original 12 R2T winners report that once federal funding is gone they will not have the dollars to support the implementation of the systems they have created.

Yes, the technical limitations of using value-added test scores to judge teachers are problematic. In Teacher and Student Evaluation: Moving Beyond the Failure of Education Reform (hot-off-the-shelf!), Alyson Lavigne and Thomas L. Good outline a stunning critique of the R2T framework for assessing teachers using these statistical models. More than three years ago, Rick Hess predicted this consternation over how R2T dealt with teacher evaluation, particularly its simplistic and often inaccurate approaches to using value-added metrics.

Meanwhile, as systems struggle with how to use value-added test data to inform teacher evaluations, it seems that the very purpose of evaluation—to help all teachers better serve students—has eluded many, from the Obama Administration to state policymakers. As the GAO report notes, “Officials in a New York district said that the time commitment required for observing and evaluating teachers prevented some principals from thoroughly reviewing evidence submitted for evaluations or providing meaningful feedback to teachers.”

Helping all teachers improve. Providing teachers with meaningful feedback based on evidence and observations.

Hm… sounds urgent and important, doesn’t it? Like something you might want to do right away, even if you couldn’t use annual standardized test data… And maybe even a process you’d want accomplished teachers to inform and lead, right? #crickets

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  • AnneJolly

    Meaningful feedback

    I think that one of the most “broken” things in education is the teacher evaluation system. (Student evaluation has some serious cracks as well.)  I certainly don’t claim to have the answers, but I do know that the people who know the most about good teaching are the practitioners themselves. Teachers should be hammerng out the criteria and standards for teacher evaluation, with real input from students.  I also believe that if teachers set and buy into high standards, and have time to meet together collaboratively during the school day to work on the art of teaching, they will hold one another accountable for meeting those standards and care about the success of every teacher on their team and in their school.

    If that idea, or any similar ideas, are on the table then I haven’t heard of them. 

  • bradclark

    Multiple Measures

    At the end of the day I want a Teacher Eval System that embraces the complexity of our profession and facilitates individualized PD and growth.  To this effort, I cringe when I hear of states measuring teachers effectiveness based on a student acheivement score.  I do not mind being held accountable for my performance on the job; but to put all of my eggs in one basket (a basket that may have a whole in it) is not a true indication of my effectiveness.

    • bradclark

      kinda weak but

      I am going to reply to my own post and say that I really hope (confidently expect hope…not pie in the sky, dream-like hope) that KY’s comprehensive Professional Growth and Effectiveness System will impact Teacher Prep programs.  I expect the PGES (a modified Danielson Framework) to be a vehicle for changing the training program for teachers entering the field.  Our KY Professional Standards Board should make that priority number one.

  • BarnettBerry

    Look toward Singapore

    Anne and Brad. Thanks for your thoughtful posts. The Danielson framework may very well represent the “complexity of (your) field” but it does not explicity advance the idea that teachers will lead evalution reforms. Charlotte’s approach is definitively an improvement but it still represents an administrative-centric approach to evaluating teachers. Take a look at Singapore — and even with its highly engineered appproach — places expert teachers at the core of its system. Singapore’s evaluation system:

    !) assesses on the contributions of teachers to the holistic development of students;

    2) focues on the quality of student learning, pastoral care and well-being of students, co-curricular activities, and collaboration with parents;

    3) draws on student outcomes but not on test score;

    4) begins with a self-assessment,

    5) uses a narrative approach, NOT a checklist, and 

    6) looks to determine a teacher’s “current estimated potential.”

    The “reporting officer” can be senior teacher or department head.  Decisions are made on evidence from portfolio and supervisor judgment in consultation with senior teacher who is an expert in field of teacher being evaluated. The principal is involved – but he or she is not central to the process.