Evaluation of Effectiveness: Kentucky

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

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Although the state requires student performance data to be a factor, Kentucky does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.
Recent legislation requires that prior to the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, a statewide personnel evaluation system must be developed. Districts may submit alternate evaluation systems for state approval, but these alternatives must be comparable to the statewide system. 
This professional growth and effectiveness system must use multiple measures of effectiveness, including student growth data as a "significant" factor in determining teacher effectiveness, utilizing both standardized tests and local formative growth measures. Parent surveys must also be included. The system must also have at least three performance rating levels. 
Kentucky is in the process of piloting its new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES), which also requires classroom observations. PGES is a key requirement of the state's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Flexibility Waiver and Race to the Top grant.  

Performance Ratings: exemplary, accomplished, developing ineffective
2014-15: all local districts must fully implement requirements of KRS 156.557 and this admin reg.; may use results to inform personnel decisions. Overall school and district accountability scores must not include results from System. 

2015-16: Must use System to inform personnel decisions; overall school and district accountability scores must include results from System.
Student growth measures must consist of state contribution, when available, and a local contribution. Teacher must develop a minimum of one student growth goal per year. 
Evaluators must use evidence from professional growth plans and self-reflection, observation, and student voice surveys. 
Regrettably, overall performance rating is accomplished if professional practice is exemplary and student growth is low. 
August 2014: Received ESEA one-year extension, through 2014-15 school year. Interestingly, in this extension letter, the Feds also approved Kentucky's eval system subject to the state adjusting its matrix so that a teacher will not be rated as accomplished if that teacher has a low student growth rating. 


Recommendations for Kentucky

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
Kentucky's requirement falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion, and the state's vague language leaves room for interpretation as to the actual measure of "significant" in the overall evaluation score. Kentucky 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. 
Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Kentucky requires classroom observations as part of teacher evaluations, the state should 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

Kentucky recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that it has not yet determined what the final weight of student growth will be for full implementation.  It is waiting for its research to be completed this school year before it makes a final determination regarding its new Professional Growth and Effectiveness System, which is being developed as part of Kentucky's ESEA waiver.
Kentucky also noted that within the adapted Danielson framework, the entire system is geared to strengthen and develop student learning in multiple areas. Through "other scoring mechanisms," the framework directly addresses student learning and outcomes and is designed to support student achievement and professional best practice through the domains of planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, professional responsibilities, and student growth. The framework also includes the following themes critical to improving teaching and learning: equity, cultural competence, high expectations, developmental appropriateness, accommodating individual needs, effective technology integration and student assumption of responsibility. The Kentucky Teaching Standards and the state's Characteristics of Highly Effective Teaching and Learning, along with research from many of the top educator appraisal specialists and researchers, are the foundation for this new system.  The framework provides structure and feedback for continuous improvement through individual goals that target student and professional growth, thus supporting overall school improvement. 
Kentucky added that teacher performance will be rated for each component according to four performance levels: ineffective, developing, accomplished and exemplary. The expected performance level is "accomplished," and it will be expected for a teacher to "live" in accomplished but occasionally "visit" exemplary, which is purposefully designed to be a high level to achieve. However, improved student learning is the ultimate goal of the proposed system. The Board will be finalizing the regulation detailing the specifics of its teacher and principal evaluation system starting in February 2014 and ending in April 2014.

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.