Identifying Effective Teachers Policy
The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.
Regrettably, Arkansas does not ensure that all teachers are evaluated annually.
The state's new evaluation system — the Teacher Excellence and Support System — will be fully implemented by the 2014-2015 school year and only requires nonprobationary teachers to have summative evaluations once every three years. During the two school years that an evaluation is not required, schools may conduct evaluations that are lesser in scope and that use portions of this framework relevant to the teacher's professional growth plan. However, annual evaluations for veteran teachers are not mandated by the state.
Probationary teachers must be evaluated annually.
For all summative evaluations, both formal (announced) and informal (unannounced and/or shorter) observations are required. Postobservation conferences to discuss the evaluator's observations and presented artifacts are required after all formal observations. Although the state specifies that probationary teachers "should" be observed during the first half of the school year, it falls short by not making this a requirement.
Require annual formal evaluations for all teachers.
All teachers in Arkansas should be evaluated annually. Rather than treated as mere formalities, these teacher evaluations should serve as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance.
Ensure that new teachers are observed and receive feedback early in the school year.
It is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers. Arkansas should ensure that its new teachers get the support they need, and that supervisors know early on which new teachers may be struggling or at risk for unacceptable levels of performance.
Arkansas asserted that TESS is a differentiated system where the scope of evaluations varies according to teacher tracks. While a summative evaluation is not required for all teachers annually, nothing precludes a district from choosing an annual summative evaluation for all teachers. All teachers, regardless of the assigned track, have yearly conferences with administrators to monitor performance on each teacher's professional growth plan. To that end, Arkansas contended that it does require annual evaluation of all teachers.
Arkansas added that it has developed a timeline for each track of TESS that provides for early and ongoing observations. The timeline suggests two informal observations prior to a formal observation, including feedback, all of which are completed by the end of the first semester. In addition, observations will continue during the second semester based on findings of the initial formative evaluations completed early in the year. For those not in a summative track of evaluation, frequent observations with feedback provide the basis for the end-of-year progress review.
Arkansas also noted that an evaluator can move a teacher into a summative evaluation track anytime he or she believes there is a need to do so, even if the teacher is in the interim appraisal track. The state believes that differentiated tracks, based on the individual needs of the teacher, are the most effective way to operate this system. Principals need to spend time where they are most needed to provide support to teachers.
Annual evaluations are standard practice in most professional jobs.
Although there has been much progress on this front recently, about half of the states still do not mandate annual evaluations of teachers who have reached permanent or tenured status. The lack of regular evaluations is unique to the teaching profession and does little to advance the notion that teachers are professionals.
Further, teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously.
Evaluations are especially important for new teachers.
Individuals new to a profession frequently have reduced responsibilities coupled with increased oversight. As competencies are demonstrated, new responsibilities are added and supervision decreases. Such is seldom the case for new teachers, who generally have the same classroom responsibilities as veteran teachers, including responsibility for the academic progress of their students, but may receive limited feedback on their performance. In the absence of good metrics for determining who will be an effective teacher before he or she begins to teach, it is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers.
The state should specifically require that districts observe new teachers early in the school year. This policy would help ensure that new teachers get the support they need early and that supervisors know from the beginning of the school year which new teachers (and which students) may be at risk. Subsequent observations provide important data about the teacher's ability to improve. Data from evaluations from the teacher's early years of teaching can then be used as part of the performance-based evidence to make a decision about tenure.
Frequency of Evaluations: Supporting Research
For the frequency of evaluations in government and private industry, see survey results from Hudson Employment Index's report: "Pay and Performance in America: 2005 Compensation and Benefits Report" Hudson Group (2005).
For research emphasizing the importance of evaluation and observations for new teachers in predicting future success and providing support for teachers see, D. Staiger and J. Rockoff, "Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 24, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 97-118.