Evaluation of Effectiveness: Utah

2013 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Evaluation of Effectiveness: Utah results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/UT-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-22

Analysis of Utah's policies

Utah does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations. Districts develop teacher evaluation systems based on the state's framework. They may also adopt or adapt a program based on the model developed by the state, which will "review and support" these systems. 
Evaluation systems must incorporate valid and reliable measurement tools that include, at a minimum, evidence of student growth, parental and student input and observations of instructional quality. Such measurements must adopt "differentiated methodologies" for measuring student growth for teachers of subjects with available standardized tests and for subjects for which these tests are not available. 
Utah has received a waiver from portions of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which requires the state to include growth in student achievement as a "significant" factor in the evaluation framework.
Districts must implement new evaluation systems with student growth measures by the 2014-2015 school year. 
The summative evaluation rating must differentiate among four levels of performance. 


Citation

Recommendations for Utah

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
Utah's policy falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion, and the state's vague language leaves room for interpretation as to the actual measure of "significant" in the overall evaluation score. Utah 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. This can be accomplished by requiring objective evidence to count for at least half of the evaluation score or through other scoring mechanisms, such as a matrix, that ensure that nothing affects the overall score more. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom. 

Ensure that evaluations also include classroom observations that specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Although Utah 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.

State response to our analysis

Utah asserted that instructional effectiveness is the backbone of its educator effectiveness framework. As noted in the federal waiver application for NCLB and in Board Rule 277-531, the State Board—under the recommendation of the PEER evaluation committee—will determine the percentages of the three elements of measurement for an overall score. Utah added that it is waiting to "weight" based on analysis from its pilot of the USOE instructional effectiveness observation tool. The state contended that there is no national research that has determined the most appropriate percentages of instructional effectiveness vs. student growth when attributing effectiveness to the teacher. Currently, the observation tool is the only measure being used to evaluate teachers; therefore, it is 100 percent of the overall score. At this time, stakeholder input and student growth are considered but are not factored in as a percentage in the overall score. 

Utah also pointed out that the system is built on the Utah Effective Teaching Standards and Utah Leadership Standards, which focus on teaching and learning as the primary focus of work. Districts cannot choose their own percentages, for these are set by the state.  Plans must be approved by the board.

How we graded

Research rationale

Teachers should be judged primarily by their impact on students.

While many factors should be considered in formally evaluating a teacher, nothing is more important than effectiveness in the classroom. Unfortunately, districts have used many evaluation instruments, including some mandated by states that are structured, so that teachers can earn a satisfactory rating without any evidence that they are sufficiently advancing student learning in the classroom. It is often enough that teachers appear to be trying, not that they are necessarily succeeding.

Many evaluation instruments give as much weight, or more, to factors that lack any direct correlation with student performance—for example, taking professional development courses, assuming extra duties such as sponsoring a club or mentoring and getting along well with colleagues. Some instruments hesitate to hold teachers accountable for student progress. Teacher evaluation instruments should include factors that combine both human judgment and objective measures of student learning.

Evaluation of Effectiveness: Supporting Research

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, "Hiring, Assignment, and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools", July 2007 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 Lars Lefgren and Brian Jacobs, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next, Volume 6, No. 2, Spring 2006, pp.59-69. 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. Glazerman, D. Goldhaber, S. Loeb, S. Raudenbush, D. Staiger, and G. Whitehurst, "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, E. Taylor, J. Tyler, and A. Wooten, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next, Volume 11, No. 3, Summer 2011, pp.55-60; 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; as well as H. Heneman III, A. Milanowski, S. Kimball, and A. Odden, "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, March 2006.