3 Important Lessons We’re Learning from Teacher Evaluations

Although many reforms have been made in teacher evaluations, including those under President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act, many critics are not yet satisfied with the results. They’re asking for more complex solutions that go beyond classroom observations, student test scores and other recent proposals. Some are even suing state officials over teacher reforms.

It’s obvious we still have a long way to go before a consensus is reached. But lessons have been learned along the way. Many education experts agree the following steps are essential items to be considered when creating a fair and comprehensive teacher evaluation system.

Determine and address the cause of so many teachers getting high ratings.

Even though the past’s high teacher ratings were the initial cause for implementing new teacher evaluation systems, research performed by Matt Kraft of Brown University and Allison Gilmour of Vanderbilt University, shows that the new processes in place for evaluating teachers still rate a majority of teachers as effective.

So why are principals giving teachers these high ratings? Kraft and Gilmour’s study shows that principals have many worries when considering giving teachers a low rating. These include finding good teachers to take the place of less effective teachers, concern over a teacher’s morale after receiving a low rating, and the difficulty involved in the process of dismissing a teacher. It seems that the easiest way to resolve this issue, would be allowing principals to have more of a voice in the creation of new teacher evaluation systems.

Don’t evaluate every teacher in every grade and every subject based on test scores.

There are many issues in the method of using test scores to evaluate teachers. One of the consequences is the creation of new tests for classes other than reading and math, and for grades other than third through eighth. Some schools are giving teacher evaluations based on the school averages or courses the teachers didn’t participate in. There must be a credible test to evaluate teachers based on test scores. This test must thoroughly assess a teacher’s influence on student growth.

Create a system that encourages teachers’ professional growth.

A report by New America states that, “For the most part, states have prioritized getting evaluation systems up and running and are only beginning to think about using them to promote ongoing teacher learning and growth.”

If a teacher isn’t performing up to or above expectations, and even if they are, states should have a system in place that encourages continued education and progress. This isn’t the most affordable system to enact, but it will be a vital part to not just evaluating teachers, but showing teachers that they are important and supported.

Teacher evaluations will continue to be debated, researched and improved. Let’s learn from the mistakes of our pasts to create a better system.