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Analysis Of Evolving Teacher Evaluation Systems Suggests Ways To Address Inherent Tensions

October 9, 2012 01:45 PM

Second paper in AEI series appraises progress of teacher evaluation methods.

Traditional ways of measuring teacher performance were designed decades ago, before new technologies, nontraditional classrooms, and the growth of charter schools. Now, states are devising new, robust evaluation systems using measures that will yield a more accurate picture of the impact teachers have on student learning. These comprehensive teacher evaluation systems attempt to use multiple measures, including student achievement and observation of teacher classroom practice in order to evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness.

Do these new systems provide clearer pictures of teachers who are succeeding, who are falling short, and who need help to improve?  Under a Joyce Foundation grant, the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) report The Hangover: Thinking about the Unintended Consequences of the Nation’s Teacher Evaluation Binge, written by Andy Rotherham, Sara Mead, and Rachael Brown of Bellwether Education Partners, also a Joyce grantee, explores some of the potential unintended consequences and necessary trade-offs of the soon-to-be implemented evaluation systems and offers recommendations for how states and districts can act now to avoid some of these pitfalls.

Read more about part one in the AEI series here.

The authors highlight some of the key tensions and tradeoffs of these changes:

  • Avoid overly prescriptive policies: While there is a temptation to increase the rigor of detailed evaluation mandates, prescriptive language may limit school autonomy and stifle innovation.
  • Make room for evolution: Recognize that, as the role of the teacher changes—for instance, as technology delivers personalized instruction alongside or in place of the teacher—evaluation practices must have the flexibility to measure performance, even in non-tested subjects and in nontraditional (blended learning) classrooms.
  • Apply evaluation data broadly: Data from the evaluations should be used not only to provide feedback and help weed out underperforming teachers, but also to inform processes such as assigning teachers and students to classrooms—a historically random practice.
  • Evaluate teachers as professionals: Some new evaluation systems eliminate “subjective” criteria such a managerial judgment and rely on data-driven criteria only. Evaluations in most professional fields rely on a combination of the two.

AEI is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare.

The Joyce Foundation makes grants to improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region, especially through initiatives designed to improve public policies. The Education Program supports research that is focused on making teacher evaluations more meaningful, giving all teachers the tools they need to become great, and rewarding them for excellence, and attracting more talented adults into the profession.

Learn More
The Real Value of Teachers: Using New Information about Teacher Effectiveness to Close the Achievement Gap, Joyce-funded research cited in The Hangover
Eduwonk.com Commentary: The Hangover Prequel?


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