Passing a good law and implementing it with fidelity are two very different tasks. Earlier this summer, Indiana University researchers took a thorough look at that state's ground game on teacher evaluations—and identified quite a few missed opportunities.
Like many states, Indiana passed a law that ushered in evaluation reform (the implementation timeline is here), being one of the first states out of the gate. Most notably, the law required districts to use student achievement to evaluate teachers starting in 2014. Ultimately, each district was permitted to develop its own evaluation system—provided it met certain criteria established by the state.
That provision resulted in 271 evaluation plans which are all over the map in terms of quality. (There are roughly 295 districts in the state, but not all of them submitted evaluation plans that were reviewable by the researchers.) The majority fail to include key components that the researchers assert would be elements of any high-quality evaluation—and indeed it's hard to argue with their logic. For example, only 15 percent of districts link a teacher's evaluation with their professional development, and less than 25 percent of districts require evaluators to hold pre- and post-observation conferences with teachers, giving them the feedback they need and deserve.
In addition, many districts struggled to articulate policies that would have built teacher trust in the evaluation process. Fewer than half of the districts require evaluator training and certification, and fewer than a third of the districts convene an evaluation oversight committee. Of those districts that have an oversight committee, few districts have put a process in place for the leadership team to meet regularly and resolve ongoing issues.
Change is hard. If we want to make evaluation reform stick, districts need to not only lay the foundations of a fair and reliable system, but also include practices and policies that make evaluations meaningful for, and trusted by, teachers.