District Trendline

March 2015: Teacher Evaluations

See all posts

March 2015: Teacher evaluations

District Trendline, previously known as Teacher Trendline, provides actionable research to improve district personnel policies that will strengthen the teacher workforce. Want evidence-based guidance on policies and practices that will enhance your ability to recruit, develop, and retain great teachers delivered right to your inbox each month? Subscribe here.

For this month's Trendline, we closely examine teacher evaluation policies in the largest districts across the country. Specifically, we take a look at the major components within evaluations, frequency and teachers' ability to grieve their evaluation ratings.

Evaluation components

Evidence of student growth or achievement

Perhaps the most debated component of teacher evaluations is whether to factor in any evidence of student learning based on objective student achievement data. The vast majority of districts, approximately 72 percent, use some kind of measure of student growth or student achievement data in some part to determine a teacher's evaluation rating.

While most of the districts in our database do include evidence of student learning within teacher evaluations, it's important to note that they do so in a variety of ways, not just through value-added measures. Most districts measure student learning through various measures, like scores on standardized assessments, student learning objectives (SLOs) and other growth goals.

Over a quarter of large districts in the Teacher Contract Database (28 percent) still do not include such measures in teacher evaluations, despite a flurry of state and federal policies the past few years moving districts in this direction. This number should come down in a few years as a number of districts have explicitly stated this year that they plan to include such data in teacher evaluations in future years: Anchorage, Austin, Denver, Elgin U-46 (IL), Granite (UT), Greenville County (SC) and Laramie (WY).

While 86 districts currently include student growth or achievement data in teacher evaluations, these districts do not all incorporate this measure in the same way. Nearly half (48 percent) have established that 50 percent of the overall evaluation is measured by student growth/achievement data for tested subjects (usually math and reading). Another 21 percent of these districts do not give a specific weight to how much student growth/achievement data will count in the total evaluation. 

How are districts dealing with teachers in non-tested subjects? When we take a look at whether or not student growth/achievement is considered in teacher evaluations for teachers in non-tested subjects, we find that 75 percent of large districts do use objective measures of student learning in evaluations assessing teachers of non-tested subjects.

Peer review and student input

When it comes to other components of teacher evaluations—peer review and student input—we find more variety in how districts do or don't incorporate these measures.

With peer review and student input, many districts make it a choice individual schools can choose to include.

Peer review, however, is a much more widely used measure in teacher evaluations than student input. Almost half of our districts either require peer review or allow it as an option. Just a third of districts require or allow student input.

Evaluation frequency

In the vast majority of districts, nearly 77 percent, non-tenured or beginning teachers are evaluated once per year. One district—Clark County (NV)—is an outlier, formally evaluating non-tenured teachers three times per year.

Eleven districts are not included in the chart above, including six Florida districts (Broward County, Lee County, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas County and Polk County) and Oakland, where teachers in their first year are evaluated two times per year and annually thereafter. In Orange County (FL), the district evaluates beginning teachers even more frequently, with evaluations twice a year for teachers in their first through third years of teaching, and annual evaluations thereafter.

Columbus (OH), Greenville County (SC) and St. Paul also have distinctive evaluation policies. In Columbus, first-year teachers are evaluated once.  Thereafter, the frequency of their evaluation is based on their performance.  In Greenville, first-year teachers receive only informal feedback about their practice and are not formally evaluated. In St. Paul, first-year teachers are evaluated three times per year; second- and third-year teachers are evaluated twice per year.

While non-tenured or beginning teachers tend to be evaluated more frequently, tenured teachers are almost always evaluated less frequently.

While over half of the districts evaluate tenured teachers annually, nearly a quarter of districts (23 percent) formally evaluate teachers at most once every three years.

Not included above are five California districts, (Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego), where teachers are initially evaluated once every two years, until they gain 10 years of experience, after which they are evaluated only once every five years.


After the evaluation rating is assigned, teachers can, in some districts, grieve the rating under certain circumstances even if there are no previous procedural violations in how the evaluation was carried out. 

Over two-thirds of large districts (42 districts) allow teachers to grieve or formally appeal their evaluation rating even if there are no procedural violations that took place. Of those districts, seven (Billings (MT), Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montgomery County (MD), Polk County (FL), Prince William County (VA) and Richmond (VA)) only allow a formal appeal or grievance to be filed if the teacher in question received one of the lowest evaluation ratings.

From just last year, we've found districts have changed or clarified many aspects of their evaluation systems and in the years ahead, we expect this trend to continue; so check back on our Teacher Trendline often to read about those changes, or run your own report on teacher evaluation policies in the Teacher Contract Database to see for yourself.