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.
Utah requires that evaluated teachers receive timely feedback with regard to professional growth plans and evaluation conferences. All teachers must develop a professional learning plan. The development of this plan in collaboration with a teacher's supervisor takes into account "feedback from the educator's yearly evaluation," in addition to other considerations. Teachers found to be in "need of improvement" are provided support, which may include mentoring, or instructional coaches and "setting timelines and benchmarks to assist educators toward greater improved instructional effectiveness."
Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations. Utah is encouraged to strengthen its policy to ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining the professional development needs and activities for individual teachers. The development of professional development plans that take evaluation results into consideration is not the same as directing evaluators and teachers to use the findings of evaluations to drive professional development activities.
Utah was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis.
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.