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. (2013). Evaluation of Effectiveness: Arkansas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AR-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-22

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 has developed a statewide evaluation instrument called the Arkansas Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS). By 2014-2015, all districts must implement TESS. Although the language in the newly adopted rules articulates that evidence of student growth is a "significant" part of the evaluation system, the rules do not articulate what this will actually mean in practice.  

These new rules 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 both tested and nontested content areas, 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—must be among the artifacts considered. 
For tested areas, the teacher and evaluator must choose the summary growth statistic associated with the state-mandated assessment for the content area as one of the external assessment measures. 
For both tested and nontested content areas, districts may be authorized to create external assessment measures that include formative assessments. If an external assessment measure does not exist for a nontested content area, and an external assessment measure is not created, then a state-mandated assessment may be prescribed.
Evaluators must use the following multiple rating categories: distinguished, proficient, basic and unsatisfactory. 
Teachers who do not meet the threshold for growth cannot receive a distinguished rating. Teachers who do not meet the threshold for two consecutive years will be lowered one performance rating.
Classroom observations are required. 

According to implementation timeline posted 5/9/14:

SY 2015-16: First year that growth will be used as a measure for the overall rating for teachers in grades 4-11; determination for growth will be made for teachers in grades K-3 and special ed. 
SY 2016-17: Growth for teachers in grades K-3 and special ed will be included for a final rating. 


Recommendations for Arkansas

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
Arkansas's requirement of student growth falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion, and the state's vague language leaves room for interpretation as to the actual measure of "significant" in the overall evaluation score.  Further, some of Arkansas's allowances for evidence of student growth—such as lesson plans and participation in professional development—are not measures of student learning. 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. 
Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Arkansas requires classroom observations as part of teacher evaluations, the state should articulate guidelines that focus classroom observations on 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 asserted that Domains Two (classroom environment) and Three (instruction of the Teacher Excellence and Support System [TESS] framework) represent 50 percent of the teacher's overall evaluation rating of the state's teacher evaluation system. The 10 components in these two domains focus on the learning environment and the quality of instruction.  Because TESS requires multiple informal observations for all teachers, these two domains are observed often with performance closely monitored.   

Research rationale

Teachers should be judged primarily by their impact on students.

While many factors should be considered in formally evaluating a teacher, nothing is more important than effectiveness in the classroom. Unfortunately, districts have used 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.

Many evaluation instruments give as much weight, or more, to factors that lack any direct correlation with student performance—for example, taking professional development courses, assuming extra duties such as sponsoring a club or mentoring and getting along well with colleagues. Some instruments hesitate to hold teachers accountable for student progress. Teacher evaluation instruments should include factors that combine both human judgment and objective measures of student learning.

Evaluation of Effectiveness: Supporting Research

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, "Hiring, Assignment, and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools", July 2007 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 Lars Lefgren and Brian Jacobs, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next, Volume 6, No. 2, Spring 2006, pp.59-69. 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. Glazerman, D. Goldhaber, S. Loeb, S. Raudenbush, D. Staiger, and G. Whitehurst, "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, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011, pp.55-60; E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." NBER Working Paper No. 16877, March 2011; as well as H. Heneman III, A. Milanowski, S. Kimball, and A. Odden, "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, March 2006.