Professional Development: Arkansas

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require professional development to be based on needs identified through teacher evaluations.

Meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Professional Development: Arkansas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AR-Professional-Development-9

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.

Unfortunately, Arkansas only requires annual summative evaluations for new teachers, probationary teachers, and teachers who have recently successfully completed intensive support status. All other teachers are evaluated at least once every three years (see Goal 3-C).

Citation

Recommendations for Arkansas

Provide teachers regular feedback about their performance.
Arkansas is commended for ensuring that professional development is informed by teachers' evaluations. However, there is no assurance that teachers evaluated every three years will receive feedback in the evaluation off-years that could be useful for improving their practice. Arkansas should consider requiring that all teachers are evaluated and receive feedback about their performance annually.

State response to our analysis

Arkansas asserted that building administrators work individually with teachers to complete their professional growth plans each spring. The state noted that these growth plans guide their professional development plans, which "are based on the needs of the teacher and information from evaluations help guide the professional development plans. Districts are also required to analyze student data and include professional development based on data in the ACSIP plans which are submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education for approval every year."

How we graded

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.  

Research rationale

For evidence of the benefits of feedback from evaluation systems, and the potential for professional development surrounding that feedback, see T. Kane et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next. Vol 11, No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (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, "Middle School Mathematics Professional Development Impact Study: Findings After the Second Year of Implementation." Institute of Education Sciences (2011).

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