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.
Texas requires that teachers receive written feedback in the form of a summative annual appraisal report. In addition, unless waived by the teacher, a summative conference is held focusing on the contents of the summative report and other available data sources. The state also specifies that professional development activities for teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations must be aligned with findings from teacher evaluations. However, Texas does not require that teachers who receive less than an effective rating be
placed on professional improvement plans.
Texas Administrative Code 150.1003; 150.1004 Professional Development and Appraisal System http://www5.esc13.net/pdas/forms.html
Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations.
While Texas has taken steps to ensure that teachers with unsatisfactory evaluations receive coordinated professional development based on these findings, the state should strengthen this policy by requiring that all teachers receive professional development that is aligned with their evaluation results.
Ensure that teachers receiving less than effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Texas should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation be placed on structured improvement plans. Even though the state requires coordinated professional development for teachers with unsatisfactory ratings, Texas should strengthen this policy by requiring that the plans define specific action steps necessary to address deficiencies and describe how and when progress will be measured.
Texas noted that the state is in the process of developing and implementing a statewide teacher evaluation system designed to be much more than a compliance tool and instead be a system of support for teachers. The system will provide teachers with frequent observations, including pre-and post-meetings and triggering embedded, contextual professional development.
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.