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Key Strategies for Improving Teacher Performance

Don’t lose sight of the purpose of teacher evaluations in the midst of efforts to improve the process.

That’s the message coming from numerous institutions in the wake of recent education reform. We gathered some of the top strategies about what it takes to improve teacher performance and student outcomes — the ultimate goal of reform, employee evaluations and other initiatives.

Train the evaluators. With so much focus on teachers, you can lose sight of the need to make sure that evaluators are equipped for the job. As the executive director of the Aspen Institute Education and Society Program pointed out, evaluators not only should be trained — they should be certified. The more equipped they are to handle evaluations, the more effective these administrators will be in providing “meaningful, constructive, evidence-based feedback and to use evaluation results to design professional-learning activities that lift teachers’ practice,” Ross Wiener said in an article for Education Week. The complete findings of research conducted by Wiener and his colleagues can be found in the report “Teacher Evaluation and Support Systems: A Roadmap for Improvement.”

He also noted that several states have already taken steps to set up effective training programs for evaluators, including Massachusetts and Tennessee.

Start the difficult conversations. Instead of waiting for ineffective teachers to “just get it,” gather the courage to have difficult conversations about what it takes to improve performance. Straightforward conversations about areas that are lacking should be followed up with tangible ways that the teacher can improve his or her performance. If, after a certain period of time, performance doesn’t improve, start the process of laying off a teacher. That’s advice from Education World. Remember, you ultimately have an obligation to the students — not the teachers.

Make sure evaluations are fair. Another finding that came from “Teacher Evaluation and Support Systems” was the need to establish evaluations with integrity. It’s not enough to set up evaluations without testing them for quality and implementing best practices from schools that have had success, Wiener said. “Efforts to improve an evaluation system cannot succeed without having a solid quality-assurance process in place,” he said.

Get teacher feedback. Get teacher buy-in with the education reform, including employee evaluations, by allowing teachers to provide feedback about the process. This can include a series of measures, including surveys or inviting them to join teams that are involved in the development of teacher evaluations.