Frequency of Evaluations : District of
Columbia

2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Frequency of Evaluations : District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Frequency-of-Evaluations--8

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia does not have district-level policy that addresses the number of times teachers must be evaluated.

However, the IMPACT system, district-level policy implemented by the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), represents significant policy advancements in the area of teacher evaluation. DCPS teachers are observed five times annually, with the first observation occurring during the first part of the school year. Each formal observation is followed by a conference to discuss ratings, feedback and steps for personal growth. Teachers who are rated "highly effective" for two consecutive years receive two observations by December 1, and if their average score is 3.5 or higher (on a 1.0 to 4.0 scale), they may waive observations for the rest of the year. 

Citation

Recommendations for District of Columbia

Require annual formal evaluations for all teachers.
All teachers in the District of Columbia 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.  

Base evaluations on multiple observations.
To guarantee that annual evaluations are based on an adequate collection of information, the District of Columbia should require multiple observations for all teachers, even those who have nonprobationary status. 

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. The District of Columbia 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.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The District added that Race to the Top LEAs must evaluate teachers annually. Thirty-one charter LEAs and DCPS participate in Race to the Top, and 91 percent of public school students are enrolled in Race to the Top LEAs.

Last word

It is indeed good news that annual evaluations are widespread in the District of Columbia. To make sure that this extends beyond the life of its Race to the Top grant, the District should adopt formal policy requiring annual evaluations for all teachers.  

How we graded

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.

Research rationale

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 Highlands 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." The Journal of Economic Perspectives. (24:3) American Economic Association (2010).