In recent years, teacher evaluation policy has been front and center in the quest to improve teacher quality. This month, we take a look at the basic building blocks of any teacher evaluation system: how many ratings exist and what components make up a teacher's evaluation.
Role of the state
States play a key role in defining teacher evaluation systems. While most states provide frameworks to districts to use in the development of district-designed systems, nine states require districts to use a statewide teacher evaluation system and twelve states require districts to use the statewide system unless the district opts out.
Number of ratings
Having multiple ratings (at least 4) is an important first step to ensuring that districts have evaluation systems which meaningfully differentiate the various levels of teacher performance. In the majority of states (33) as well as the majority of large districts (86), teachers can receive one of four possible summative evaluation ratings. These ratings are generally some version of "highly effective," "effective," "developing," and "ineffective."
Teachers in Dallas Independent School District are judged on a scale with seven evaluation ratings, the most ratings of any large district. Teachers in Burlington School District in Vermont do not receive an overall rating; instead, after the evaluation the supervisor recommends what level of supervision they will fall under for the following year (you can read more about this system here).
There are 18 large districts that chose to have more rating categories than what the state framework requires. For example, California only requires two rating categories, but six districts in the state (Corona-Norco Unified School District, Fresno Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Francisco Unified School District) use at least three and up to five ratings.
Evaluation ratings are generally determined by two factors: student growth or achievement and what NCTQ terms professional practice. Professional practice primarily refers to what is measured during observations, in addition to any other components specified within a district's evaluation framework (a common example is the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching). These other components can include artifacts like lesson plans or work portfolios.
All but one of the districts represented in the chart below include professional practice in evaluations (more on the one outlier district is below). Roughly 80 percent of the districts include some form of student growth or achievement.
The "other" category in the graph below includes various types of professional expectations or responsibilities, such as teacher attendance and commitment to the school community, as well as other stakeholder input such as peer or parent surveys.
Also included in the other category is Corona-Norco Unified School District, where teachers and administrators meet at the start of each year to decide how each teacher will be evaluated. Because of this unique system, the district was not counted as including professional practice as part of the evaluation system (although one can assume that observations likely play a role). The district is, however, in the process of developing a new evaluation system that includes professional practice, teacher-set goals, and another measure to be determined.
The weight given to student growth or achievement ranges from a low of 20 percent to a high of 50 percent in many districts. Districts weigh professional practice anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent. In both cases, the most common weight for each component is 50 percent. In fact, one fifth of large districts have evaluation systems that use only these two components, basing evaluations 50 percent on student growth or achievement and 50 percent on professional practice.
Of course, how components add up to final evaluation ratings is a complicated process. Although many states and districts have included student growth or achievement in teacher evaluations over the last decade, NCTQ recently found that only two states (Indiana and Kentucky) require that teachers have to demonstrate student achievement gains in order to qualify for an "effective" evaluation rating.
You can learn more about state evaluation policies and student growth by reading our recent report, Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises,or dig deeper into district evaluation policies with the Teacher Contract Database.
The Teacher Contract Database includes information on 154 school districts and 2 charter management organizations in the United States including: the 100 largest districts in the country, the largest district in each state, and the member districts of the Council of Great City Schools. The database features answers to over 100 policy questions and provides access to teacher contracts, salary schedules, and board policies in addition to relevant state laws governing teachers.
 Not included in any of the graphs on evaluation components is Manchester School District(NH) where NCTQ was unable to obtain information on teacher evaluation components.