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A national report released on Thursday links strong teacher evaluation models with improved teacher quality. Also, there is a link in student growth gains when a strong continuous teacher improvement model is in place and followed consistently. 

In recent years, school districts around the nation had challenges implementing teacher evaluations alongside the new standards aligned to the Common Core, which are now being called college-and-career-ready standards. Both the new evaluations and the standards were ushered in across the nation adding to implementation logistical concerns.

These simultaneous changes meant that teachers had to implement different content standards while being evaluated with a new evaluation instrument. Such transitions received blowback from many educators across the country citing invalid evaluations due to a lack of training on content standards in addition to a lack of preparation from evaluators to implement the new evaluation system. 

“Our analysis suggests that moving forward with teacher evaluation systems presents students and teachers with a huge opportunity,” commented Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a report, Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems are Getting Results,  which examined evidence of the impact of teacher evaluation in six places (four districts and two states) that have stayed the course in developing and implementing improved teacher evaluation systems: Dallas Independent School District, Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, Newark Public Schools, New Mexico, and Tennessee.

The NCTQ study found many positive improvements related to teacher performance, but one main improvement they observed in those six places found that the teacher evaluations used multiple measures, professional learning linked to the evaluation needs of the teacher, objective student growth measures, student surveys, at least three rating categories, and a consistent number teacher observations with feedback.

The report suggests that states should use a well-implemented evaluation model as a talent management strategy to recruit and retain good teachers as well as to justify raises and advancements in the teaching profession.

Each of these six systems to some degree links a teacher’s evaluation results to opportunities to earn additional compensation. For example, D.C. Public Schools teachers who are found to be highly effective, teach in a targeted high-poverty school, and meet other criteria are eligible to earn as much as $25,000 in bonuses each year.

In addition to attaching consequences to the results of an evaluation, each place has committed on the part of school system leadership to implement the new systems with fidelity, even as five of the featured locales in the study survived turnovers in leadership.

Adopting a continuous improvement mindset to teacher evaluations was consistent among all six places in the study by NCTQ. Using embedded professional learning with a differentiated aspect to the individualized needs for teacher improvement encouraged teachers to seek support while principals were motivated to have difficult conversations with their faculty.

Should New Mexico’s model be one for all states?

Another critical finding was with New Mexico’s state teacher evaluation system. The NCTQ found that New Mexico’s ability to track the percentage of students taught by teachers earning different evaluations allowed state policymakers to close the achievement and opportunity gaps for students. This effort allowed New Mexico to place more effective teachers in front of more struggling students and students of color. Now, 77 percent of New Mexico’s students of color were taught by highly effective teachers.

An area that has been a problem since the implementation of the teacher evaluations is how many teachers are rated below effective. Many states show that less than 1 percent to 3 percent of their teachers were rated below effective each year since the new evaluations began under college-and-career-readiness standards nationwide. 

With the continuous improvement design to the evaluations examined in the six places, more teachers were found to be below effective. With New Mexico’s evaluation, 28.7 percent of the teachers were found to be below effective. In Tennessee, 11.4 percent of the teachers were found below effective. Georgia, not part of the study, consistently falls between one to two percent of the teachers are below effective. 

“The buy-in among school leadership was real and perhaps unique,” continued Walsh. “And the commitment to continuous improvement among the districts and states highlighted here stands out. None of these systems were perfect out of the gate; system leaders recognized this and worked continuously to enhance system design, implementation, and use.”

Ultimately, well-designed and well-implemented teacher evaluation systems help all teachers improve. Independent researchers in Tennessee have found that teachers in the state are improving at a faster rate, with growth that is “much more rapid and sustained” since the implementation of its new evaluation system.

“These six places serve as a powerful testament that effective evaluation policies and practices are likely leading to improvements in the overall quality of a teacher workforce,” concluded Walsh.

Notable areas of improvement:

  • Students in D.C. Public Schools have made significant gains on the NAEP assessment since 2009, concurrent with its implementation of the new evaluation system.
  • Student proficiency in Dallas increased more steeply from 2015 (when its system was put in place) to 2017 than across the state of Texas.
  • New Mexico’s students demonstrated increased proficiency under implementation of its evaluation system, with 11,000 more students on grade level in math and 13,000 more students reading on grade level in 2018, as compared to 2015.
  • Dallas Independent School District reports retaining 98 percent of its highest-rated teachers, compared to 50 percent of consistently unsatisfactory teachers.
  • Denver Public Schools reports retaining 91 percent of its highest-rated teachers, compared with only 20 percent of the district’s lowest-rated teachers.
  • District of Columbia Public Schools reports retaining 92 percent of the district’s effective and highly effective teachers, while low-performing teachers are now three times more likely to leave the district.
  • ● Newark Public Schools reports retaining 96 percent of highly effective teachers in the evaluation system’s fifth year of implementation, compared to 51 percent of its ineffective teachers.
  • In most of the places evaluated in the report, most teachers were less likely to leave their school if the evaluation process has critical aspects of targeted professional learning.


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