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.
While Montana's new accreditation standards do require that districts evaluate all licensed staff on an annual basis, and that teachers receive a copy of the evaluation instrument, the state does not have policy that connects professional development to teachers' evaluations.
Administrative Rules of Montana 10.55.701(4)
Require that evaluation systems provide teachers with feedback about their performance. Although Montana requires teachers to receive copies of their evaluations, this only ensures that teachers will receive their ratings, not necessarily feedback on their performance. Montana should specify that teachers should receive specific feedback on identified strengths and areas that need improvement.
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 aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. Montana should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities.
Ensure that teachers receiving less than effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan. Montana should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies and describe how and when progress will be measured.
Montana declined to respond to NCTQ's analyses.
Professional development should be connected to needs identified through teacher evaluations.
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.