Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy
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. This goal remained consistent between 2017 and 2019.
Evaluation Feedback: Vermont's Guidelines for Teacher and Leader Effectiveness suggest observations and formative and summative evaluations. However, a formal feedback loop is not established either by providing teachers with copies of their evaluations or post-observation conferences.
Professional Development: Vermont's guidelines suggest: "A variety of stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, peers, administrators, evaluators) will provide feedback which the educator will synthesize and reflect upon to inform professional practice." The guidelines also suggest that evaluations be used to inform professional learning opportunities. However, these guidelines are not mandated policy.
Improvement Plans: Vermont's guidelines suggest that teachers found to be ineffective are placed on improvement plans. Again, districts are not required to adopt any of these guidelines.
Evaluation Rating Categories: Vermont does not require more than two rating categories, although the guidelines suggest multitiered rating categories.
Require that evaluation systems provide teachers with feedback about their performance.
Vermont should require that evaluation systems provide teachers with adequate feedback about strengths and areas that need improvement identified in their evaluations.
Ensure that professional development is aligned with findings from teachers' evaluations.
Professional development that is not informed by evaluation results may be of little value to teachers' professional growth and the aim of increasing their effectiveness in the classroom. Vermont should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities.
Ensure that teachers receiving less-than-effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Vermont should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one less-than-effective evaluation rating are placed on structured improvement plans. These plans should focus on performance areas that directly connect to student learning and should identify noted deficiencies, define specific action steps necessary to address these deficiencies, and describe how and when progress will be measured.
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, Vermont 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.
Vermont recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
7D: Linking Evaluation to Professional Growth
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.
To further increase the utility and validity of evaluation systems, states should require that evaluation instruments differentiate among various levels of teacher performance rather than only giving binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings. Binary rating systems often offer little meaning because virtually all teachers receive satisfactory ratings. More rating categories allow for more nuanced distinctions between levels of teacher performance.