Evaluation of Effectiveness: District of

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: District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-22

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of all its teacher evaluations. The District has recently developed Teacher and Leader Evaluation Requirements, as a result of Race to the Top commitments and terms of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waiver. However, requirements vary depending on the local education agency (LEA). 
Value-added results serve as one component of evaluation for Race to the Top LEAs. Individual value-added information must account for 50 percent of the evaluation for teachers of math and ELA in grades 4-8, unless the LEA has received a student achievement waiver from OSSE, in which case, it must account for at least 30 percent of the evaluation.
Charter LEAs not participating in Race to the Top must meet the DOE requirements for Principle 3, which means including student achievement or growth as a significant factor in teacher evaluations. 
The IMPACT system, district-level policy implemented by the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), requires that a teacher's impact on students' achievement accounts for 50 percent of the evaluation score for tested grades and subjects. For nontested grades and subjects, student achievement must count for at least 15 percent of the performance-level determination. Classroom observations are required, and the evaluator must utilize the following multiple evaluation rating categories: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.
For Race to the Top LEAs, four rating categories must be used. For other charters receiving federal funds, at least three categories must be used. These evaluations must also include other measures of professional practice such as observations, teacher portfolios, and student and parent surveys. 


Recommendations for District of Columbia

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
The District of Columbia should require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion of all teacher evaluations. One way to guarantee that instructional effectiveness is the preponderant criterion for all evaluations is to codify the requirements articulated in the DCPS policy. 

Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
In addition to codifying the classroom observation requirement in DCPS's IMPACT system, the District of Columbia should further 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

The District of Columbia was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.

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.