Evaluation of Effectiveness : Virginia

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


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

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Evaluation of Effectiveness : Virginia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/VA-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness--8

Analysis of Virginia's policies

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. 


Recommendations for Virginia

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.

State response to our analysis

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.

Research rationale

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, "Teacher Hiring, Assignment and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools (CPS)" (July2007) 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 Brian Jacobs and Lars Lefgren, "When Principals Rate Teachers," Education Next (Spring 2006). 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. Loeb et al, "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 et al, "Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness." Education Next Vol 11 No. 3 (2011); E. Taylor and J. Tyler, "The Effect of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement Data of Mid-Career Teachers." National Bureau of Economic Research (2011); as well as Herbert G. Heneman III, et al., "CPRE Policy Brief: Standards-based Teacher Evaluation as a Foundation for Knowledge- and Skill-based Pay," Consortium for Policy Research, 2006.