Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy
The state should ensure that teachers receive feedback about their performance and should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations. This goal was reorganized in 2017.
Evaluation Feedback: Arkansas requires that a teacher's summative evaluation "result in a written evaluation determination for the teacher's performance on all evaluation domains as a whole." The teacher must be provided an opportunity to discuss with the evaluator the review of evidence used in the evaluation.
Professional Development: Arkansas requires a teacher's professional growth plan to "clearly link" professional development activities and the teacher's individual professional learning needs as identified in the evaluation.
Improvement Plans: Arkansas does not require that low-performing teachers are placed in "intensive support status." It is up to the evaluator to make this determination.
Evaluation Rating Categories: Arkansas requires that evaluators use at least four performance ratings. (Legislation in 2017 deleted specific names of ratings.)
2016 Handbook: http://www.arkansased.gov/public/userfiles/HR_and_Educator_Effectiveness/TESS/Handbook%20Jan%202016.pdf HB 1424 (2017)
Ensure that teachers receiving less-than-effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Arkansas should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one less-than-effective evaluation rating are placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies, and describe how and when progress will be measured.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.
7D: Linking Evaluation to Professional Growth
Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations. The goal of teacher evaluation systems should be not just to identify highly effective teachers and those who underperform but to help all teachers improve. Even highly effective teachers may have areas where they can continue to grow and develop their knowledge and skills. Rigorous evaluations should provide actionable feedback on teachers' strengths and weaknesses that can form the basis of professional development activities. Too often professional development is random rather than targeted to the identified needs of individual teachers. Failure to make the connection between evaluations and professional development squanders the likelihood that professional development will be meaningful.
Many states are only explicit about tying professional development plans to evaluation results if the evaluation results are bad. Good evaluations with meaningful feedback should be useful to all teachers, and if done right should help design professional development plans for all teachers—not just those who receive poor ratings.
To further increase the utility and validity of evaluation systems, states should require that evaluation instruments differentiate among various levels of teacher performance rather than only giving binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings. Binary rating systems often offer little meaning because virtually all teachers receive satisfactory ratings. More rating categories allow for more nuanced distinctions between levels of teacher performance.