K-12 teacher evaluation systems today are more refined and useful for improving teachers’ skills and connecting teachers to student achievement than past models, a new national report that examines states’ teacher evaluation policies by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education (CPE) finds.
“Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance,” offers an overview of changes in teacher evaluation systems by state. The report also describes states’ use of evaluation data for personnel decisions and continuous improvement.
Though more states are using student test scores to evaluate teachers, state standardized test scores make up only a small part of a teacher’s evaluation, the report finds.
Similarly, while many lawmakers and educators still question the use of student performance as a measure of instructional effectiveness, misconceptions abound that student performance receives more weight than report findings show—currently, no state uses individual student achievement data as more than 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Nearly all states that do rely on scores from state standardized tests do so as just one of multiple measures of student achievement.
“In the past five years, 38 states have altered their teacher evaluation systems to include some measure of student performance,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “With variations across teaching and learning models, school boards and district officials need state support and the ability to adapt teacher evaluation models to meet the needs of local schools.”
Highlights of newer systems in place across states include: the use of multiple stakeholders to design and implement evaluation tools; multiple measures to show teacher effectiveness; and data that link teacher and student achievement.
“New models of teacher evaluation can help improve instructional quality and provide teachers with added support and additional resources,” said CPE’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull, author of the report. “Most states have done a good job of vastly improving teacher evaluation systems by listening to the experts and relying on a wider range of criteria, such as classroom observation and student performance data. Interestingly, these evaluations are often used to help all teachers improve their skills, not just as a tool to identify and replace ineffective teachers.”
The report follows CPE’s 2011 report, “Building A Better Evaluation System,” that examines best practices in teacher evaluations. Federal programs, including the No Child Left Behind law and Race to the Top grants, have recently provided incentives to states to revamp their evaluation systems. Historically, teacher evaluations have simply labeled teachers as satisfactory or not, giving no feedback on how to improve their skills.