Evaluation of Effectiveness : Pennsylvania

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

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

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

Analysis of Pennsylvania's policies

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

The state requires local school districts to conduct teacher evaluations using a uniform, state-designed rating form that assesses teachers in four domains: personality, preparation, technique and pupil reaction. Although the evaluation tool would appear to necessitate observation of teacher effectiveness, there is no requirement that objective evidence of student learning be included.

Citation

Recommendations for Pennsylvania

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Pennsylvania 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. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom. 

Ensure that classroom observations specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Pennsylvania commendably 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.

Utilize rating categories that meaningfully differentiate among various levels of teacher performance.
To ensure that the evaluation instrument accurately differentiates among levels of teacher performance, Pennsylvania should require districts to utilize multiple rating categories, such as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective. A binary system that merely categorizes teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory is inadequate. In its application for Race to the Top, the state suggests titles of overall performance rating categories for its model system: entry, emerging, achieving, highly effective I and highly effective II. These are inadequate because none denotes a level of poor performance.

State response to our analysis

Pennsylvania recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that legislation has been proposed that would support student learning counting for 50 percent of teacher evaluations. The pilot for the new evaluation will take place in the 2011-2012 school year. Proposed full implementation would take place in 2012-2013.

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.