Frequency of Evaluations: Rhode Island

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require annual evaluations of all teachers.

Meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Frequency of Evaluations: Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Commendably, all teachers in Rhode Island are evaluated annually.
The state's model, the Teacher Evaluation and Support System, requires at least three observations, with written feedback required after each one. Postobservation conferences are now optional. The model also requires three evaluation conferences between the teacher and evaluator to discuss progress; these must take place at the beginning, middle and end of the year. 
Districts developing their own systems of evaluation clearly must include classroom observations, but the frequency of these observations is a decision left up to the districts. 

2014 – H 7096 Teacher evaluations weakened by legislature. Any tenured teacher rated “highly effective� will be evaluated every three years. Any teacher rated “effective� will be evaluated every two years. Teachers with any other rating will be evaluated annually.


Recommendations for Rhode Island

Base evaluations on multiple observations. 
To guarantee that annual evaluations are based on an adequate collection of information, Rhode Island should require multiple observations for all teachers, even those who have nonprobationary status. 
Ensure that new teachers are observed and receive feedback early in the school year. 
It is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers. Rhode Island should therefore strengthen its policy and require that all districts—even those developing their own systems—conduct observations of probationary teachers early in the year and provide timely feedback. 

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that while district-approved systems determine the number of observations, they must meet the expectations in the evaluation system standards regulations. The rubric used for approval stipulates that there must be sufficient observations to make valid decisions about practice.
Rhode Island also contended that the recommendation for new teachers doesn't account for induction programs that are designed to include observation and feedback. A system of induction supports any formal evaluation, and the one used by the state integrates the evaluation rubric language to achieve continuity. 

Research rationale

Annual evaluations are standard practice in most professional jobs.

Although there has been much progress on this front recently, about half of the states still do not mandate annual evaluations of teachers who have reached permanent or tenured status. The lack of regular evaluations is unique to the teaching profession and does little to advance the notion that teachers are professionals.

Further, teacher evaluations are too often treated as mere formalities rather than as important tools for rewarding good teachers, helping average teachers improve and holding weak teachers accountable for poor performance. State policy should reflect the importance of evaluations so that teachers and principals alike take their consequences seriously.

Evaluations are especially important for new teachers.

Individuals new to a profession frequently have reduced responsibilities coupled with increased oversight. As competencies are demonstrated, new responsibilities are added and supervision decreases. Such is seldom the case for new teachers, who generally have the same classroom responsibilities as veteran teachers, including responsibility for the academic progress of their students, but may receive limited feedback on their performance. In the absence of good metrics for determining who will be an effective teacher before he or she begins to teach, it is critical that schools and districts closely monitor the performance of new teachers.

The state should specifically require that districts observe new teachers early in the school year. This policy would help ensure that new teachers get the support they need early and that supervisors know from the beginning of the school year which new teachers (and which students) may be at risk. Subsequent observations provide important data about the teacher's ability to improve. Data from evaluations from the teacher's early years of teaching can then be used as part of the performance-based evidence to make a decision about tenure.

Frequency of Evaluations: Supporting Research

For the frequency of evaluations in government and private industry, see survey results from Hudson Employment Index's report: "Pay and Performance in America: 2005 Compensation and Benefits Report" Hudson Group (2005).

For research emphasizing the importance of evaluation and observations for new teachers in predicting future success and providing support for teachers see, D. Staiger and J. Rockoff, "Searching for Effective Teachers with Imperfect Information." Journal of Economic Perspectives. Volume 24, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 97-118.