What Should Teacher Evaluations Look Like?

What Should Teacher Evaluations Look Like?

Long governed largely by inertia and school convention, teacher evaluation has recently become a focal point of education reform. Many states, under prodding from the federal Race to the Top program, have begun to implement new, comprehensive evaluation systems that incorporate student test-score data and more rigorous observation protocols. School systems are also working to tie evaluation results more closely to teachers' tenure status and professional advancement.

However, early models of the revamped evaluation systems (in Tennessee and New York, for example) have come under criticism for being haphazardly implemented, inconsistent, and process-heavy. Many teaching groups and advocates have also questioned the validity of relying heavily on standardized test scores to judge teachers' skills and capabilities. A related source of concern is how the new models can be applied equitably with respect to teachers in nontested subjects and grades.

As a classroom teacher, how do you think teachers' performance should be evaluated? How can evaluations best be used to improve teaching and learning without creating undue complexity? What role should student test scores and other performance data play? What will the best teacher evaluation systems look like 10 years from now?

Follow-Up: My Second Wish for Teacher Evaluation

Ryan Niman I know that I have grandiose hopes and dreams with my first wish. But I am not content to stop there, as I have a second wish: I wish for an evaluation system that is based on research. Why? Two reasons: First, everyone knows that trends in education are, well, trendy. New movements telling us how we should teach come along each year. In my eight years I've seen Understanding by Design, curriculum mapping, and CFGs come and go as areas of focus in my school or district. I've seen a district-wide evaluation system sputter and fade when ...


Follow-Up: Holding Ourselves to a Higher Standard

Renee Moore My colleagues here around the table have raised some important and intriguing issues about teacher evaluation. Like Ryan K., I sense (and hope) that teacher evaluations ten years from now will look very different from the haphazard, ineffective methods in use in most American schools today. His vision is echoed in Jessica Hahn's portrayal of the power of collaboration among teachers even today and the importance of extending that collaboration throughout the district and into the community. I'm thrilled that Jessica K. brought to the table the role students could play in teacher evaluation. I strongly second that ...


Follow-Up: Learning Communities as Teacher-Evaluation Systems

Ryan Kinser It's Oscar season, and during these long winter evenings, I'll be renting some Academy Award contenders. This month's Roundtable posts and discussions prompted me to grab a past favorite, A Beautiful Mind, because it shaped the view of teacher evaluation I described in my first post. I'm thinking of the bar scene in which John Nash has his epiphany about the incomplete theory of governing dynamics. He and his friends try to decide who will approach an attractive blonde who keeps glancing at the group. To paraphrase Russell Crowe's Nash, "What if each of us does not what's ...


Follow-Up: The Power of Peer Evaluation

Jessica Keigan Ryan Niman's first post conjured a strong memory for me. During my student teaching, I was evaluated by a site professor who told me that my class was too loud and chaotic. He was right—by his definition of effective teaching. My class was doing a collaborative project that required students to move from station to station for conversations about quotes from the novel we were reading. Yes, the students were loud and the classroom chaotic as the teenagers moved about. I'm sure that there were side conversations and a little bit of typical teenage behavior mixed into...


Follow-Up: What Is Possible?

Michael Moran While the innovative suggestions for improving teacher evaluations put forth by my fellow bloggers have pushed my thinking in new directions, I am still left unsure about their political feasibility. History tells us that transforming such ideas into federal or state policy has always been a challenge. Even in rare cases when a teacher evaluation plan that makes sense is developed, it tanks during the implementation phase. Furthermore (as if all of this wasn't already difficult enough), massive cuts to state education budgets across the country make implementing relevant, contextual, and fair teacher evaluations harder than ever. In ...


Follow-Up: What Is Tested Is What Is Taught & What Is Evaluated and Publicized Is ...

Patrick Ledesma We've all heard the saying "what is tested is what is taught." Ultimately, this statement has much truth. It's human nature to try to do what is expected, especially under high stakes conditions. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had some benefits. We finally had concrete data that some subgroups were under performing. The collaborative school cultures created to analyze data reduced the classroom isolation and bunker mentalities that limited previous individual and organizational development. But there were unintended consequences. In some states, the curriculum was narrowed, standards were lowered, emphasis on non-tested subjects decreased, and activities and strategies ...


Follow-Up: The Spirit of Teacher Evaluation Should be Improvement and Not Blame

Jessica Hahn I would like to follow up on the story with which I started my initial post. In response to the low reading test scores, the third grade teachers who had otherwise been deemed effective were not evaluated as unsatisfactory or negligent. They were not blamed or fired. The school took on a collective responsibility. We asked ourselves, "How can every member of the leadership team do better? How can each teacher do better?" After reading the posts, it seems that the ideas and tools for effective evaluation are out there. Educators are advocating for peer review and the ...


My First Wish for Teacher Evaluation

Ryan Niman If a genie in a lamp ever offers me three wishes for my profession, I'm ready. Here's my first: "I wish for an evaluation system that measures the full set of skills necessary to be a teacher." In my second year of teaching, my evaluator (the vice-principal) offered some sound advice: "Get rid of some extra desks and tables." My students had been bumping into each other as they moved around the room during group work. And somehow, until my evaluator mentioned it, I had never realized that I could actually get rid of some of the furniture ...


Making Teachers Part of a Team

Jessica Hahn Last year, the number of 3rd graders in my school that scored proficient on the state standardized reading test was less than 50 percent. Yet some of the 3rd grade teachers were deemed good teachers. In fact, one of these teachers was considered excellent by both leadership and her colleagues. She had excellent classroom culture, invested students, and had strong instructional strategies. How can this teacher be good if her students' test scores were so low? This story begs three questions: 1. What is good teaching? 2. How do we evaluate it? 3. What is the purpose of ...


Context Matters

Michael Moran Over the past few years, the fists of coercive evaluation have beaten down the integrity of the teaching profession. Rhetoric that promotes teaching as a noble career choice is contradicted by evaluations that impose fear, threaten livelihoods, and essentially work to de-professionalize the job. We need look no further than the recent widespread cheating scandal in Atlanta to recognize that using evaluation as an intimidator will not work. That said, evaluation is important and, when implemented correctly, has the potential to truly transform teacher effectiveness and enable teaching professionals to help close academic achievement gaps between students. As ...


Consulting the Key Players: Teachers and Students

Jessica Keigan All over the country, educational systems are working to improve educator effectiveness by creating what they hope will be ideal systems of teacher evaluation. In Colorado, Senate Bill 191 was passed in the state's bid to earn Race to the Top dollars and is now being refined for implementation. I have been immersed in the process of providing recommendations for that process alongside the other members of the Denver New Millennium Initiative, and have heard many opinions about what an effective teacher evaluation system looks like. The most informative conversations I have had about teacher effectiveness and evaluation ...


Flashforward: Teacher Evaluation in the Future

Ryan Kinser It's Evaluation Day, 2021. And I've never felt more relaxed. In my district and many others, the negative stigma attached to high-stakes evaluation has abated. Peer evaluation is now a finely tuned process—fair, equitable, and catalyzing teachers to reflect upon and improve their practices. My next peer evaluator arrives in a few minutes. Each period, I will be observed by another 6th grade Language Arts teacher. Our principal has assigned one substitute to rotate through their classes as they each take a period to act as my evaluator. My peers already conducted a pre-conference where we discussed...


How Can Standardized Test Scores Be Used in Teacher Evaluation?

Patrick Ledesma Whether educators like it or not, the public values the use of standardized test scores as a measure of school quality. Test scores provide a measure that is quick, relatively cheap, and convenient. Scores allow anyone to easily make judgments about teacher quality. From this accountability perspective, perhaps it was just a matter of time before standardized test scores would be part of the teacher evaluation process. My home state of Virginia joined the list of states seeking to use test scores in teacher evaluation, recommending that "40 percent of teachers' evaluations be based on student academic progress, ...


The Future Is Now for Teacher Evaluation

Renee Moore The best teacher evaluation should look like good teaching: knowledgeable, well-prepared, flexible, collaborative, and reflective. It should result in the growth of all involved and consistently produce significant benefits for student learning. It should be professional. I spent two years engaging with some of the best teachers in the country about what teaching should look like by 2030. We fully expect, and our students deserve, an expansion of the learning environment beyond the 19th-century structures we have inherited. These changes have already begun: Learning extends beyond classroom walls, beyond brick and mortar buildings, beyond the 55 minute period, ...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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  • Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu

    Jessica Shyu is vice president of teacher excellence and leadership at Teach For China where she leads teams to train and develop more than 300 fir...

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