District Trendline

Tr3 Trends: Who's Evaluating Teachers?

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January 2013

Welcome to Tr3 Trends, NCTQ's monthly newsletter designed just for school district officials. Each month we use data from NCTQ's Tr3 database to highlight the latest trends in school district policies and collective bargaining agreements nationwide. Tr3 contains teacher policies from 114 school districts, including the 50 largest districts, the largest district in each state, Broad Prize winners, Gates investment districts and members of the Council of the Great City Schools.

This month we see which districts are moving away from using principals as the sole evaluators of teachers. Specifically, we look at who is using peers, 3rd party observers and student voice in the teacher evaluation process.

Our analysis comes out on the heels of the latest MET report from the Gates Foundation (read our review of the report). MET gives an interesting take on how the mix of observers and the weighting of student input affect the reliability of evaluation ratings.

Here are our findings from the Tr3 database:

Very few districts (8 of 114) include 3rd party evaluators from outside the school on a teacher's evaluation team.

Third party evaluators are usually trained by the district's central office and then deployed to multiple schools in order to make evaluations comparable across schools and more objective. One of the earliest adopters of 3rd party evaluators was Washington, D.C. Since 2009, D.C. has recruited experienced teachers and trained them to become evaluators (a.k.a. "master educators") in their areas of expertise. The other seven districts that require the use of 3rd party evaluators are:

  • Denver
  • New Haven
  • Hillsborough (FL)
  • Detroit
  • Pittsburgh
  • Greenville (SC)
  • Brevard (FL)

In New Haven, these additional evaluators are used only for teachers who receive the highest or lowest ratings from their site administrator. There are seven additional districts in which teachers can opt to have an additional observation done by a 3rd party evaluator. In Newark, 3rd party evaluators may be called in at the request of the teacher, but only after a teacher has received an ineffective or partially effective rating. Administrators in Spokane and Palm Beach can request a third party evaluator as well, with no conditions. Most new teachers in Des Moines have evaluation teams of three people, and one of those evaluators can be a district-level administrator.

In 17.5% of Tr3 districts (20 out of 114), 'peers' serve as evaluators for some or all of the district's teachers.

The districts in which all teachers are evaluated by peers and the peers give ratings (not just feedback) are:

  • Miami-Dade
  • Hillsborough (FL)
  • Pittsburgh
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Denver
  • Minneapolis
  • Greenville (SC)
  • Montgomery County (MD)

Brevard (FL) encourages supervisors to use a second evaluator and specifically suggests a teacher's peer. In Rochester (NY) and Jefferson County (KY), teachers may request that a peer evaluate them in addition to an administrator. Cobb County (GA) lets department chairs evaluate teachers if the principal thinks the chair is better suited for the job, usually in cases of subject-matter expertise.

Methodology note: A peer is a fellow teacher, be it a retired teacher, a teacher from another school or from the same school--including department heads. A third party evaluator could be anyone--teacher or administrator--from outside the school. Thus, some evaluators could be counted in both groups.

Only 5 of the 114 Tr3 districts (4% percent) require that student surveys factor into a teacher's evaluation rating...but that's 3 more than last year.

Atlanta, Denver, Dekalb County (GA), Gwinnett County (GA), and Memphis all now require that student survey data be factored into teacher evaluations. In Memphis, input from students, parents and other teachers counts for 5% of a teacher's evaluation rating.

In Harrison County (CO), teachers may opt to gather student feedback and have it count towards their final evaluation rating.

Newark is piloting student input this year and will then determine its role in the evaluation process. Student input will be a subject of negotiation in Boston in 2013. Beginning in 2013-14, student surveys will count towards 10% of teacher evaluation ratings in Chicago.

Go to Tr3's custom report page to access all the data we use in Tr3 Trends and to compare teacher policies in 114 school districts nationwide. Send feedback to gmoored@nctq.org.