Evaluation of Effectiveness: Washington

2015 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

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

Meets a small part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Evaluation of Effectiveness: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WA-Evaluation-of-Effectiveness-71

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. Full implementation is slated for 2015-2016. 

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 standards #3, 6 and 8. 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 and with a low student-growth rating will receive an overall proficient rating. 

Classroom observations are required. 

In April 2014, Washington lost its ESEA waiver for not requiring state assessment scores. In February 2015, Washington requested another waiver from the USED to not use student growth data until 2016-2017. The state's legislature is currently considering a bill that would require evaluations to include test scores. 

Citation

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 an effective 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 recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the values statement in the recommendation regarding observations makes inaccurate assumptions. Each of the three adopted instructional frameworks measures performance on dozens of details related to instructional practice, including the three examples provided by NCTQ. Quality instruction is the primary focus of all three instructional frameworks.

How we graded

Research rationale

Value-added analysis connects student data to teacher data to measure achievement and performance.
Value-added models are an important tool for measuring student achievement and school effectiveness. These models measure individual students' learning gains, controlling for students' previous knowledge. They can also control for students' background characteristics. In the area of teacher quality, value-added models offer a fairer and potentially more meaningful way to evaluate a teacher's effectiveness than other methods schools use.

For example, at one time a school might have known only that its fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, consistently had students who did not score at grade level on standardized assessments of reading. With value-added analysis, the school can learn that Mrs. Jones' students were reading on a third-grade level when they entered her class, and that they were above a fourth-grade performance level at the end of the school year. While not yet reaching appropriate grade level, Mrs. Jones' students had made more than a year's progress in her class. Because of value-added data, the school can see that she is an effective teacher.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.