Professional Development: South Dakota

2015 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Professional Development: South Dakota results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/SD-Professional-Development-72

Analysis of South Dakota's policies

South Dakota requires teacher evaluation systems to provide "clear, timely, and useful feedback which identifies needs and guides professional development." Districts are required to adopt an evaluation process that ensures that evaluation results will be used to guide professional growth for all teachers. 

South Dakota also requires that a plan of assistance be 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.

Citation

Recommendations for South Dakota

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 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.

State response to our analysis

South Dakota noted that ineffective teachers in years one through three can either be let go or put on an improvement plan. Teachers in year four and beyond must be placed on an improvement plan before they can be let go.

How we graded

Research rationale

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.