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: Wisconsin's Educator Evaluation System requires that teachers receive frequent feedback from their evaluators in the form of post-observation conferences, as well as a midyear review and an annual conference to discuss the final results of the evaluation.
Professional development: Wisconsin allows evaluation results to be used to inform performance goals and personal professional development; this is not a requirement.
Improvement plans: Wisconsin does not require that teachers who have been rated less-than-effective are placed on improvement plans.
Evaluation rating categories: Wisconsin does not require multiple rating categories in its evaluation system.
Educator Effectiveness System User Guide, Revised 2018-2019: https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/ee/pdf/teacherprocessmanual.pdf
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. Wisconsin should ensure that districts utilize teacher evaluation results in determining professional development needs and activities for all teachers, not just those requested by supervisors.
Ensure that teachers receiving less-than-effective ratings are placed on a professional improvement plan.
Wisconsin should adopt a policy requiring that teachers who receive even one unsatisfactory evaluation 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, Wisconsin 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.
Wisconsin was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state asserted that it strongly recommends everything on this list but does not require it. Regarding evaluation ratings: "We focus on the more meaningful feedback at the most discreet level which can actually inform change."
Wisconsin added: "In a few months, we will be releasing a report that directly links implementation of our system to significant positive outcomes. Our system directly impacts teacher satisfaction and retention. And every time implementation in a school improves, so do student outcomes. The impact on student outcomes compounds across years when teachers stay in the building—which, as noted, they do. So our system is working as intended when implemented as intended. We fully intend to support it as such."
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.