Report shows strong teacher evaluations needed

March 8, 2019 Staff Writer

Analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality finds tangible evidence that teacher evaluation systems, when implemented well, are coinciding with real and measurable benefits.

The past decade has been marked by rapid changes in teacher evaluations. While many districts and states announced their intention to install better systems, they faced political and structural challenges. The districts and states highlighted have surmounted these challenges to implement successful teacher evaluation systems that are yielding substantial benefits.

“Our analysis suggests that moving forward with teacher evaluation systems presents students and teachers with a huge opportunity,” said Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

In Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems are Getting Results, NCTQ examines evidence of the impact of teacher evaluation in six places (four districts and two states) that have stayed the course in developing and implementing improved teacher evaluation systems: Dallas Independent School District, Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, Newark Public Schools, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

These six evaluation systems have achieved a more meaningful and realistic measure of the distribution of teacher talent than such systems have done historically, when virtually all teachers received the same rating. For example, New Mexico’s teachers earn evaluation ratings that are widely distributed across its evaluation rating categories, with nearly 30 percent of teachers earning ratings below effective in recent years. This enables New Mexico to differentiate the supports that are made available to teachers.

To achieve the level of differentiation that these six systems have, a number of factors appear necessary. Each of them annually evaluates all teachers using both objective and subjective measures, as opposed to exempting large numbers of teachers from yearly evaluation, only using subjective measures, or not giving significant weight to student learning. Each employs at least three rating categories, with some using as many as five to seven. Each also ties the professional development a teacher should pursue to their evaluation results.

Perhaps most significantly, each of these six systems to some degree links a teacher’s evaluation results to opportunities to earn additional compensation. For example, D.C. Public Schools teachers who are found to be highly effective, teach in a targeted high-poverty school, and meet other criteria are eligible to earn as much as $25,000 in bonuses each year.

In addition to attaching consequences to the results of an evaluation, each place has made a genuine commitment on the part of school system leadership to implement the new systems with fidelity, even as five of the featured locales in our study survived turnovers in leadership.

“The buy-in among school leadership was real and perhaps unique,” Walsh said. “And the commitment to continuous improvement among the districts and states highlighted here stands out. None of these systems were perfect out of the gate; system leaders recognized this and worked continuously to enhance system design, implementation, and use.”

• Dallas Independent School District reports retaining 98 percent of its highest-rated teachers, compared to 50 percent of consistently unsatisfactory teachers.

• Denver Public Schools reports retaining 91 percent of its highest-rated teachers, compared with only 20 percent of the district’s lowest-rated teachers.

• District of Columbia Public Schools reports retaining 92 percent of the district’s effective and highly effective teachers, while low-performing teachers are now three times more likely to leave the district.

• Newark Public Schools reports retaining 96 percent of highly effective teachers in the evaluation system’s fifth year of implementation, compared to 51 percent of its ineffective teachers.

Ultimately, well-designed and well-implemented teacher evaluation systems help all teachers improve. Independent researchers in Tennessee have found that teachers in the state are improving at a faster rate, with growth that is “much more rapid and sustained” since the implementation of its new evaluation system.

Read the report at   

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