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No matter which side of the fence you’re on with legislation regarding recent education reforms, new research seems to be showing that they have led to significant — and positive — changes in how teacher evaluations.

Just late last year, President Obama signed an education bill that effectively replaced the much more controversial No Child Left Behind act. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which received strong bipartisan support, local jurisdictions will have more say about how to set goals and ratings for schools, as well as outline the remedial steps needed to address the issues in struggling schools.

But another outcome from the increased scrutiny on education over the past decade or so is that teacher evaluations have significantly evolved, according to research and studies.

In an article by The Atlantic, former teacher evaluations were cursory, at best, with millions of teachers undergoing a basic classroom check-in by their principals. In many cases, this only happened once a year. Those evaluations did little to gauge whether teachers were making any progress from year to year, or whether they were effective in instructing and challenging their students.

However, significant changes seem to be underway, studies show. “A growing body of research and dozens of interviews with policymakers, experts, and others suggest that the new, more comprehensive evaluation systems have strengthened many school districts’ focus on instructional quality,” the article pointed out.

“They’ve forced principals to prioritize classrooms over bus schedules and lunch menus and sparked conversations in school buildings about effective teaching that often simply didn’t happen in the past.”

More specific developments include the following:

  • Identifying training institutions that are more effective in producing high performing teachers
  • Increased use of peer training that allows low-performing teachers to be mentored by more experienced teachers
  • The increased use of user-friendly evaluation systems
  • Focus on specific areas in teacher evaluations

As more initiatives are introduced to improve education outcomes, the attention on professional development for teachers will likely be a part of the discourse.

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