As a nation, it seems we’re still struggling to find the best formula for evaluating teachers. The latest attempt also seems to be stalling. The government, in addressing inadequacies in America’s educational system, had tried to improve outcomes by tying teacher evaluations to student test scores as part of a national competition.
However, recent studies show that states selected as part of the government’s Race to the Top competition have made very little progress in changing teacher evaluations, as had been anticipated. According to the Center for American Progress, efforts to make student test scores an integral part of rating teachers is failing to take off — nearly five years after it was launched as part of Race to the Top. In fact, only about 9 percent of the overall funds awarded have been invested in efforts to change the teacher evaluation system.
The winners of the Race to the Top competition shared $4 billion in funding to significantly change educational outcomes by adopting more rigorous academic standards, overhauling teacher evaluation systems, developing charter schools and focusing on turning around low-performing schools. The Center for American Progress came up with its findings on teacher evaluation initiatives after tracking where the winning states had spent their funds through June 2014.
Despite the ongoing debate on how to develop fair teacher evaluations, educational consultant Charlotte Danielson said they’re still essential to helping teachers grow professionally — and, as a result, improve outcomes for students. Danielson, who has helped schools across the nation develop teacher evaluation systems, said there are numerous points to keep in mind when executing effective change.
Here’s what Danielson had to say about developing an effective teacher evaluation system, during an interview with the U.S. Department of Education:
Recognize that you do have time to do it well. Many school administrators assume teacher evaluations can’t be executed well because no one has the time. While it’s true that many school officials tend to be weighed down with other responsibilities, Danielson said, “it doesn’t take any longer to implement a teacher evaluation system well than to do it poorly.” The problem? Most school officials don’t know how to do it well, she said.
Analyze the value of current and future evaluations. Procedures must be analyzed to ensure that they can lead to teacher learning. Not easy, but possible, Danielson said.
Do the homework. One of the first steps school districts should take when rethinking teacher evaluation systems is to invite faculty members to engage in an intense dialogue about what constitutes good teaching, good teaching practices, and good metrics for evaluating performance. There should be some type of agreement on what that all looks like, Danielson said.
Develop a framework for effective teaching. Under the Danielson Framework for Teaching, developed by Danielson, students learn from high levels of student intellectual engagement. Danielson said there is plenty of research to back up the effectiveness of this type of learning, but students generally aren’t taught that way. “The challenge is to get people to understand how to engage students in learning,” she said.
Another part of the framework is creating a culture that emphasizes continued learning and professional inquiry. “You’re not done learning when you start teaching,” she said. “Teaching is enormously complex work that people work to master over their entire careers.” By establishing a foundation that focuses on the teachers, they’re able to move on to analyze student work for levels of engagement.
Evaluate the evaluators. To ensure effective outcomes for teacher evaluations, evaluators should be properly trained. If possible, they should have credentials to do the job, Danielson said.