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.
Illinois requires that a copy of the evaluation is included in the teacher's personnel file and that a copy is given to the teacher. In addition, the evaluation plan must include the specification of the teacher's strengths and weaknesses and supporting reasons for the comments made. Evaluators are also instructed to give feedback after each formal observation in writing. The state also specifies that professional development activities for teachers with needs improvement or unsatisfactory evaluations must be aligned with findings from teacher evaluations. However, the state does not require that all teachers receive professional development linked to evaluation results. In addition, teachers rated unsatisfactory are placed on 90-day remediation plans.
Ensure that professional development is
aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations.
Professional development that is not informed by evaluation results may be of little value to teachers' professional growth and the aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. Illinois should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities for all teachers not just those rated needs improvement or unsatisfactory.
Ensure that teachers receiving less than effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Illinois 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.
Illinois responded by noting regulatory language regarding written notice to a teacher that must include: "a summary of the district’s procedures related to the provision of professional development in the event a teacher receives a 'needs improvement' or remediation in the event a teacher receives an 'unsatisfactory' rating to include evaluation tools to be used during the remediation period."
development should be connected to needs identified through teacher
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.