Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy
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. This goal remained consistent between 2017 and 2019.
Evaluation Feedback: South Dakota requires teacher evaluation systems to provide "clear, timely, and useful feedback which identifies needs and guides professional development."
Professional Development: South Dakota districts are required to adopt an evaluation process that ensures that evaluation results are used to guide professional growth for all teachers.
Improvement Plans: South Dakota requires that a plan of assistance is developed for teachers who do not meet a district's performance standards, but the policy extends only to teachers who have been teaching four years or longer.
Evaluation Rating Categories: South Dakota requires three rating categories: exceeds expectations, meets expectations, and below expectations.
South Dakota Codified Law 13-42-34 South Dakota Administrative Rule 24:55:01:04; 24:57 South Dakota Teacher Effectiveness Handbook https://doe.sd.gov/teachereffectiveness/documents/Handbook.pdf
Ensure that teachers receiving less-than-effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Although South Dakota requires a plan of assistance for teachers not meeting district standards, this only applies to teachers in their fourth or subsequent years of teaching. The state should adopt a policy requiring that all teachers who receive even one less-than-effective evaluation are 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.
South Dakota was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that it requires districts to determine a professional practice rating and a student growth rating for each evaluated teacher, which may be combined into a summative effectiveness rating of exceeds expectations, meets expectations, and below expectations.
7D: Linking Evaluation to Professional Growth
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.
To further increase the utility and validity of evaluation systems, states should require that evaluation instruments differentiate among various levels of teacher performance rather than only giving binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings. Binary rating systems often offer little meaning because virtually all teachers receive satisfactory ratings. More rating categories allow for more nuanced distinctions between levels of teacher performance.