The state should require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Virginia does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations.
The state requires local school districts to develop a teacher evaluation instrument that "addresses, among other things, student academic progress and the skills and knowledge of instructional personnel." It has promulgated guidelines for teacher evaluations (Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards) that instruct districts to evaluate teacher performance across a number of domains, including, among others, instructions, professionalism, and planning and assessment.
The guidelines focus primarily on teachers' knowledge and skills and less on teacher effectiveness as evidenced by student learning. Virginia recommends that evidence of student learning gains be included, suggesting multiple measures that can be used to capture and demonstrate these gains. While the state's intentions were almost certainly that these multiple measures include observations and an objective measure, the language here is too ambiguous to ensure that districts will follow suit.
Virginia has also recently approved a new model for evaluating teachers that recommends that students' academic progress account for 40 percent of a teacher's overall performance rating. However, these are merely guidelines, so districts can decide how much to actually weigh student achievement as well as how to evaluate it.
Virginia Code 22.1-295 Guideline for Uniform Performance Standards http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/regulations/uniform_performance_stds.pdf
Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation.
Virginia 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. Whether state or locally developed, a teacher should not be able to receive a satisfactory rating if found ineffective in the classroom.
Ensure that classroom observations specifically focus on and document the effectiveness of instruction.
Virginia should not only specifically require that its evaluations include classroom observations, but also the state should specifically articulate that these observations focus on effectiveness of instruction. The primary component of a classroom observation should be 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.
Utilize rating categories that meaningfully differentiate among various levels of teacher performance.
To ensure that the evaluation instrument accurately differentiates among levels of teacher performance, Virginia should require districts to utilize multiple rating categories, such as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and ineffective. A binary system that merely categorizes teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory is inadequate.
Virginia cited the section of its Code pertaining to evaluations for administrators. "Each local school board shall adopt for use by the division superintendent clearly defined criteria for a performance evaluation process for principals, assistant principals, and supervisors that are consistent with the performance objectives set forth in the Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, Administrators, and Superintendents ... and that includes, among other things, an assessment of such administrators' skills and knowledge; student academic progress and school gains in student learning; and effectiveness in addressing school safety and enforcing student discipline."
The state also pointed out that in April 2011, it approved new performance standards and evaluation criteria for teachers, and that student academic progress is a performance standard.