Evaluation of Effectiveness : Arkansas

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


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

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

Analysis of Arkansas's policies

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

The state recently passed legislation establishing its new evaluation system, the Teacher Excellence and Support System. Although the language articulates that the rules to be adopted by the state must recognize that evidence of student growth is a "significant" part of the evaluation system, it is not clear just how significant student data will be in teacher evaluations.  

These new rules must require annual evidence of student growth from artifacts and external assessment measures, with evidence of student learning not limited to a single assessment. Artifacts must represent output from one or more of the following: lesson plans; self-directed or collaborative research; participation in professional development; contributions to parent, community or professional meetings; or classroom, district-level, state-level or national assessments.

For teachers who teach a tested content area, 50 percent of the artifacts considered by the teacher and evaluator must be external assessment measures, defined as measures of student achievement or growth that are administered, developed and scored by someone other than the teacher being evaluated

Commendably, classroom observations are required. Evaluators must use the following multiple rating categories: distinguished, proficient, basic and unsatisfactory. 


Recommendations for Arkansas

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Although Arkansas's new evaluation legislation is a step in the right direction, it falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. The state should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom. 

The state's current policy is significantly undermined because, although Arkansas intends to use objective measures as part of its teacher evaluations, when they are added to the other softer measures allowed by the state, it is possible that teachers who have poor objective evidence of student achievement may still be able to earn an effective overall rating. 

Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Arkansas commendably requires classroom observations, the state should articulate guidelines that ensure that the observations focus on effectiveness of instruction. The primary component of a classroom observation 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.

State response to our analysis

Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis. The state added that its new evaluation model is based on the work of Charlotte Danielson's "Enhancing Professional Practice," and it uses a very stringent rubric to all the standards. Rules and regulations are currently being constructed.

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.