Evaluation of Effectiveness : Alabama

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.

Meets a small part of goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Evaluation of Effectiveness : Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness--8

Analysis of Alabama's policies

Alabama does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.

As of August 2011, all teachers in Alabama are required to be evaluated under the state's new EDUCATEAlabama system. Regrettably, objective evidence of student learning is not the preponderant criterion of these teacher evaluations.

The state requires at least two observations and provides "a compilation of observable definition items, indicators and standards," which is available to both teachers and evaluators and details the behaviors and practices the observer will be looking for. 

In May 2010, Alabama voted to begin a study that could eventually lead to the use of student test scores and other objective measures of student achievement as the main ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness. The resolution asked three education groups to define teacher effectiveness and determine how to measure it fairly and effectively, perhaps by using student test scores. However, there is no indication from the state whether the results of this study are available or if Alabama plans to move forward with incorporating objective measures of student achievement into its teacher evaluations.


Recommendations for Alabama

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Alabama should require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion in its new teacher evaluation system. Further, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found to be ineffective in the classroom. 

Utilize rating categories that meaningfully differentiate among various levels of teacher performance.
To ensure that the evaluation instrument accurately differentiates among levels of teacher performance, Alabama should require districts to utilize multiple rating categories, such as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective. A binary system that merely categorizes teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory is inadequate. Further, if the state intends its four indicator rating levels—emerging, applying, integrating and innovating—to also represent the overall ratings, these categories are inadequate due to their inability to differentiate teacher performance, especially for a veteran teacher that objective and/or subjective data suggest is ineffective. 

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Research rationale

Reports strongly suggest that most current teacher evaluations are largely a meaningless process, failing to identify the strongest and weakest teachers. The New Teacher Project's report, "Teacher Hiring, Assignment and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools (CPS)" (July2007) at: http://www.tntp.org/files/TNTPAnalysis-Chicago.pdf, found that the CPS teacher performance evaluation system at that time did not distinguish strong performers and was ineffective at identifying poor performers and dismissing them from Chicago schools. See also Brian Jacobs and Lars Lefgren, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next (Spring 2006). Similar findings were reported for a larger sample in The New Teacher Project's The Widget Effect (2009) at: http://widgeteffect.org/.  See also MET Project (2010). Learning about teaching: Initial findings from the measures of effective teaching project. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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).
That the vast majority of districts have no teachers deserving of an unsatisfactory rating does not seem to correlate with our knowledge of most professions that routinely have individuals in them who are not well suited to the job. Nor do these teacher ratings seem to correlate with school performance, suggesting teacher evaluations are not a meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness. For more information on the reliability of many evaluation systems, particularly the binary systems used by the vast majority of school districts, see S. Loeb et al, "Evaluating Teachers: The Important Role of Value-Added." The Brookings Brown Center Task Group on Teacher Quality (2010). 

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.