States Implement New Teacher Evaluations that Include Student Performance

Published September 6, 2013

This school year, school districts nationwide have begun implementing new teacher evaluation systems that include student test scores.

Since 2009, the number of states requiring student scores to influence a teacher’s evaluation has doubled to 30, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. The Obama administration has required this policy through No Child Left Behind waivers for 40 states and Race to the Top grant competitions.

Wisconsin teacher Tracie Happel said evaluations do not micromanage teachers. In fact, she said it should be an expected part of the job.

“A teacher is a public servant,” Happel said. “We are paid by taxpayers. We should be responding to the community and what [parents] want for their kid.”

Most Go with Danielson
More than twenty states have adopted Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching for evaluating teachers. Danielson advises several state and foreign education departments. 

Danielson developed an evaluation that includes teacher “reflection and self-assessment,” administrator observations, and student test scores.

Happel thinks strong teacher evaluations have been long overdue.

“Districts [now] get to decide how to retain employees,” Happel said. “There is so much more freedom in teacher effectiveness.”

In Happel’s school district, a poor teacher evaluation results in one year of probation, after which a teacher loses her job if she hasn’t improved.

“It protects our children and makes them the most academically ready,” she said.

Validity Questions
Using test scores to evaluate teachers is complicated, said Terry Stoops, an education policy analyst for the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina.

“Teachers in North Carolina have the right to complain,” he said. “The state has a history of creating inferior tests that measure student learning. It isn’t a trustworthy evaluating instrument.”

Nonetheless, an objective component is necessary for evaluations, Stoops said.

“Evaluations conducted by principals are extremely unreliable and not indicative of quality teaching,” Stoops said. “They don’t want to make it look like they don’t know how to hire teachers.”

The Obama administration put Washington, Oregon, and Kansas on notice they may lose federal grant money because they have not moved fast enough to implement administration-approved teacher evaluation systems. The states have one more year to pass muster and keep their grants. All three have adopted the Danielson method.

“It seems like the federal government is trying to bring people in line,” Stoops said. “Whether or not that will be successful, I don’t know.”

Objective Data
Although quantitative elements have been part of many teacher evaluations in the past, they have typically not been required, said National Center on Performance Incentives Program Director Susan Burns.

In Tennessee, teachers are evaluated once every five years on a scale from one to five—one means “significantly below expectations,” and five means “significantly above expectations.” If a teacher does not have consecutive evaluations of 4 or 5, the teacher cannot receive tenure.

In such systems, teachers are evaluated by a combination of classroom observation and student test score growth, with different states using different ratios. 

Image by Michael Goodine.