Select another topic
How we graded
While many factors should be considered in formally evaluating a teacher, nothing is more important than effectiveness in the classroom. Unfortunately, districts use many evaluation instruments, including some mandated by states that are structured so that teachers can earn a satisfactory rating without any evidence that they are sufficiently advancing student learning in the classroom. It is often enough that teachers appear to be trying, not that they are necessarily succeeding.
A teacher evaluation instrument that focuses on student learning could include the following components:
- Ratings should be based on multiple observations ideally by multiple persons within the same year to produce a more accurate rating than is possible with a single observation. Teacher observers should be trained to use a valid and reliable observation protocol (meaning that it has been tested to ensure that the results are trustworthy and useful). The observers should assign degrees of proficiency to observed behaviors.
- The primary observation component should be the quality of instruction, as measured by student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective and efficient use of class time.
- Other factors often considered in the course of an observation can provide useful information, including:
- Questioning techniques and other methods for engaging class
- Differentiation of instruction
- Continual student checks for understanding throughout lesson
- Appropriate lesson structure and pacing
- Appropriate grouping structures
- Reinforcement of student effort
- Classroom management and use of effective classroom routines
B. Objective Measures of Student Learning
Apart from the observation, the evaluation instrument should provide evidence of work performance. Many districts use portfolios, which create a lot of work for the teacher and may be unreliable indicators of effectiveness. Good and less-cumbersome alternatives to the standard portfolio exist, for example:
- The value that a teacher adds, as measured by standardized test scores
- Periodic standardized diagnostic assessments
- Benchmark assessments that show student growth
- Artifacts of student work connected to specific student learning standards that are randomly selected for review by the principal or senior faculty and scored using rubrics and descriptors
- Examples of typical assignments, assessed for their quality and rigor
- Periodic checks on progress with the curriculum (e.g., progress on textbook) coupled with evidence of student mastery of the curriculum from quizzes, tests and exams
A Pacific Research Institute study found that in California, between 1990 and 1999, only 227 teacher dismissal cases reached the final phase of termination hearings. The authors write: "If all these cases occurred in one year, it would represent one-tenth of 1 percent of tenured teachers in the state. Yet, this number was spread out over an entire decade." In Los Angeles alone, over the same time period, only one teacher went through the dismissal process from start to finish. See Pamela A. Riley, et al., "Contract for Failure," Pacific Research Institute (2002).
There is growing evidence suggesting that standards-based teacher evaluations that include multiple measures of teacher effectiveness—both objective and subjective measures—correlate with teacher improvement and student achievement. For example see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next Vol 11 No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (2011); as well as Herbert G. Heneman III, et al., "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, 2006.