Professional Development: Arkansas

2015 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Professional Development: Arkansas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AR-Professional-Development-72

Analysis of Arkansas's policies

Arkansas requires that a teacher's summative evaluation provide "feedback that the teacher can use to improve teaching skills and student learning." In addition, the teacher's professional learning plan is required to "clearly link" professional development activities and the teacher's individual professional learning needs as identified in the evaluation. 

Teachers with an unsatisfactory rating in any one entire evaluation domain must be placed in "intensive support status." Teachers with an unsatisfactory or a basic rating in a majority of components in an evaluation domain may be placed in "intensive support status." The evaluator and teacher develop goals cooperatively for the teacher's improvement plan.

Citation

Recommendations for Arkansas

Ensure that teachers receiving less than effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Arkansas should strengthen its policy and require an improvement plan for any teacher whose performance is in need of improvement, not just those in the lowest performance category. 

State response to our analysis

Arkansas noted that teachers have access to an electronic data management system for evaluation data, called BloomBoard. All evidence of evaluation performance, artifacts and ratings are entered into BloomBoard, and teachers receive electronic and face-to-face feedback. Further, half of the required professional development hours must relate to the areas noted on the teacher’s professional growth plan, which is created based on observation data and feedback.

How we graded

Research rationale

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. 

Professional Development: Supporting Research
For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011; 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.

Much professional development, particularly those that are not aligned to specific feedback from teacher evaluations, has been found to be ineffective.  For evidence see M. Garet, A. Wayne, F. Stancavage, J. Taylor, M. Eaton, K. Walters, M. Song, S. Brown, S. Hurlburt,  P. Zhu, S. Sepanik, F. Doolittle,  and E. Warner, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, May 2011, NCEE 2011-4024.

For additional evidence regarding best practices for professional development, see K. Neville and C. Robinson, "The Delivery, Financing, and Assessment of Professional Development in Education: Pre-Service Preparation and In-Service Training" The Finance Project, 2003.