Evaluation of Effectiveness: Washington

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


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

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

Analysis of Washington's policies

Washington does not require that objective evidence of student learning be the preponderant criterion of its teacher evaluations. Districts must choose one of three instructional frameworks: CEL, Danielson or Marzano. The state's approved student growth rubrics must also be utilized by the districts. The revised system is required for all provisional teachers in 2013-2014, with experienced teachers being phased in over the next three years. 
Washington requires teacher evaluations to include a minimum of eight criteria: 1) centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement; 2) demonstrating effective teaching practices; 3) recognizing individual student learning needs and developing strategies to address those needs; 4) providing clear and intentional focus on subject matter-content and curriculum; 5) fostering and managing a safe, positive learning environment; 6) using multiple student data elements to modify instruction and improve student learning; 7) communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community; and 8) exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning. 
Student growth data must be a "substantial factor" in evaluating the summative performance for at least three of the above-listed criteria. Student growth data must be based on multiple measures that can include classroom-based, school-based, district-based and state-based tools and can include measures of performance across an instructional team or school. 
The following four rating levels must be used: unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, distinguished.
Teachers with a preliminary rating of distinguished with a low student-growth rating will receive an overall proficient rating. 
Classroom observations are required. 


Recommendations for Washington

Require instructional effectiveness to be the preponderant criterion of any teacher evaluation. 
Washington's policy falls short by failing to require that evidence of student learning be the most significant criterion. In fact, the state's policy requiring student learning to be a substantial factor in just three of the eight criteria results in an insignificant overall impact of instructional effectiveness on the evaluation score. The state 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 Washington 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

Washington was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state also asserted that student growth is defined as the change in student achievement between two points in time, and that multiple measures of student growth are required for every classroom teacher, regardless of content or grade level.  Performance measures that assess progress toward student growth goals are objective measures that may be classroom- or school-based formative assessments as well as summative assessments that are district or state based. 

Washington also noted that a classroom teacher with more than five years of teacher experience who receives a basic rating for two consecutive years or for two years within a consecutive three-year time period is judged to be unsatisfactory and subject to discharge.

Further, for any teacher on a comprehensive evaluation, unsatisfactory student growth in any of the rubric rows will result in a low student growth-impact rating.  A classroom teacher with a low growth-impact rating will undergo a student growth inquiry with his or her evaluator that includes examining the evidence, exploring possible extenuating circumstances and scheduling monthly conferences, as well as creating a professional development plan focused on improving student growth. 

Finally, Washington pointed out that all three instructional frameworks provide detailed rubrics for classroom observation and nonclassroom interactions. Regardless of framework, observations are focused on gathering evidence of instruction that is based on current research regarding best practice, including the elements suggested by NCTQ. 

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.