The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
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.
Act 1209 of 2011
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.
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.