Evaluation of Effectiveness : Georgia

2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Evaluation of Effectiveness : Georgia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/GA-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness--8

Analysis of Georgia's policies

Georgia does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.

The state's policy requires that teacher evaluations consider the teacher's role "in meeting the school's student achievement goals, including the academic gains of students assigned to the teacher," in addition to considering other factors such as interpersonal skills and professional development. Teachers are evaluated through classroom observations along with documentation of student achievement gains. The state policy indicates that the academic gains should be measured by a "wide range of student achievement assessments" including state assessments.

Further, Georgia's newly implemented evaluation system, CLASS Keys, includes a student achievement strand as one of five equally weighted evaluation strands. Each strand must be rated "emerging" at a minimum for a satisfactory annual score. If any one of the five strands, including the student achievement strand, is "not evident" on the summative annual teacher evaluation, then the annual evaluation is unsatisfactory overall. However, it does not appear that the state requires objective evidence of student learning in order to satisfy the student achievement strand. 

As part of its CLASS Keys system, Georgia has articulated the following multiple rating categories: not evident, emerging, proficient and exemplary. 

Finally, although Georgia's winning bid for Race to the Top funds includes a significant focus on teacher evaluation, only the 29 districts that have signed on to Georgia's proposal are required to use the newly developed Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM), which bases 50 percent of evaluations on value-added student performance and 10 percent on measures related to closing achievement gaps. This participation represents just 41 percent of the state's public school students. 


Recommendations for Georgia

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Although Georgia's new evaluation system is a step in the right direction, it falls short by failing to require that objective evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. The state should either require a common evaluation instrument in which evidence of student learning is the most significant criterion, or it should specifically require that student learning be the preponderant criterion in local evaluation processes. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom.

The evaluation policy described in Georgia's Race to the Top proposal is commendable; however, until the state articulates a formal policy that requires the Teacher Effectiveness Measure for all teachers, it cannot ensure that instructional effectiveness will be the preponderant criterion in all teacher evaluations.

Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Georgia commendably requires classroom observations, the state should articulate guidelines that ensure that the observations focus on effectiveness of instruction. The primary component of a classroom observation should be 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

Georgia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it is important to recognize that the academic gains by students assigned to a teacher are to be considered in teacher evaluations. Georgia recommends that multiple measures be used to measure academic gains, but local systems make this final determination because constitutional law in Georgia dictates local control.  

The state also noted that the five strands within the CLASS Keys represent a holistic picture of effective teachers. "While academic gains of the students are the primary goals of any evaluation system, the other four strands of CLASS Keys represent what all effective teachers should do in the classroom. Acceptable performance of all five strands is indicative of teacher effectiveness and therefore carries equal weight."  

In addition, Georgia pointed out that CLASS Keys strands have a subset of 26 teacher performance standards that focus on effectiveness of instruction, rather than generalizations of quality of instruction examples, such as student time on task, student grasp or mastery of the lesson objective, and efficient use of class time. 

Finally, the state added that development of an inclusive Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM), as outlined in its Race to the Top application, is underway. It will be a cohesive measure that recognizes teacher effectiveness of both core and noncore teachers. TEM includes a qualitative (rubrics-based) evaluation, class-level value-added/growth score, student achievement gap reduction and other quantitative measures. "The initial phase of the TEM will involve the 26 Race to the Top districts to gain content validity and reliability. Once validity has been established, the TEM will be phased in over a three-year period with 60 additional districts coming on board each year to ensure fidelity to the TEM."

How we graded

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 use 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.

A teacher evaluation instrument that focuses on student learning could include the following components:

A. Observation
  1. Ratings should be based on multiple observations ideally by multiple persons within the same year to produce a more accurate rating than is possible with a single observation. Teacher observers should be trained to use a valid and reliable observation protocol (meaning that it has been tested to ensure that the results are trustworthy and useful). The observers should assign degrees of proficiency to observed behaviors.
  2. The primary observation component should be 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.
  3. Other factors often considered in the course of an observation can provide useful information, including:
  • Questioning techniques and other methods for engaging class
  • Differentiation of instruction
  • Continual student checks for understanding throughout lesson
  • Appropriate lesson structure and pacing
  • Appropriate grouping structures
  • Reinforcement of student effort 
  • Classroom management and use of effective classroom routines
Other elements commonly found on many instruments, such as "makes appropriate and effective use of technology" and "ties lesson into previous and future learning experiences" may seem important but can be difficult to document reliably in an observation. Having too many elements can distract the observer from the central question: "Are students learning?"

B. Objective Measures of Student Learning

Apart from the observation, the evaluation instrument should provide evidence of work performance. Many districts use portfolios, which create a lot of work for the teacher and may be unreliable indicators of effectiveness. Good and less-cumbersome alternatives to the standard portfolio exist, for example:
  • The value that a teacher adds, as measured by standardized test scores
  • Periodic standardized diagnostic assessments
  • Benchmark assessments that show student growth
  • Artifacts of student work connected to specific student learning standards that are randomly selected for review by the principal or senior faculty and scored using rubrics and descriptors
  • Examples of typical assignments, assessed for their quality and rigor
  • Periodic checks on progress with the curriculum (e.g., progress on textbook) coupled with evidence of student mastery of the curriculum from quizzes, tests and exams

Research rationale

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, "Teacher Hiring, Assignment and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools (CPS)" (July2007) 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 Brian Jacobs and Lars Lefgren, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next (Spring 2006). 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. Loeb et al, "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 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); as well as Herbert G. Heneman III, et al., "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, 2006.