Thoughts on Teacher Evaluations

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Americans agree that one of the most important steps we can take to secure our children's future is to put an effective teacher in the front of every classroom in the country.  In order to do that, however, we must improve our current evaluation systems because they aren't getting the job done.  

 Currently, many evaluation systems do not factor student academic progress into the evaluation process.  Instead, teachers are often evaluated based on superficial practices that may have little or no impact on student learning, such as maintaining bulletin boards or posting standards.  This has brought us to a bizarre reality where at the same time that over 95% of teachers in the country are rated "satisfactory," student academic progress has fallen from among the best in the world to 14th in world reading and 25th in math on international tests.  An evaluation system that deems almost all teachers "satisfactory" while students fall further and further behind does not serve the best interest of our children.

Incorporating student performance into teacher and principal evaluations will put students interests first and put our country on course to place an effective teacher at the front of every classroom in America.  Both the AFT and the NEA have recently expressed agreement that the incorporation of student performance into evaluation systems is absolutely necessary.  An evaluation system should focus everyone working in our schools on what matters most: How much students are learning and how prepared they are to succeed when they leave school.  By making student learning outcomes at least 50% of evaluation systems, we can focus on getting our country's students back to where they belong - first.

 Effective evaluation systems help school districts, principals, and teachers in a multitude of ways.  Effective evaluation systems:

  • Allow districts to customize professional development opportunities for teachers based on how they can most improve student achievement
  • Enable principals to focus feedback to teachers on the areas of growth that will create the biggest difference in student learning outcomes
  • Empower teachers with more detailed information on how to improve their practice in ways that will drive student growth
  • Assist districts to attract talented and promising teachers to our classrooms by rewarding teachers that do lead students to high levels of learning with increased pay

Research shows that teachers are the most important school-based factor in how much students learn, and also that meaningful performance evaluation systems promote teacher effectiveness.  Ineffective evaluation systems are a burden on teachers and principals and take the focus off of student learning where it should be, but effective evaluation systems provide all teachers with regular and targeted feedback that helps them grow as professionals and increase the impact they have on student outcomes.  People become teachers to help students achieve; It's time we enable our schools to help our teachers become as effective as possible by making student performance the main focus of our evaluation systems.