To express support for improved systems of teacher supervision and evaluation and provide recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers to help schools ensure effective, fair, and meaningful teacher evaluations that improve their capacity to enhance the learning of the students they serve.
There is consensus that we need to improve overall student achievement in the United States. To help teachers successfully fulfill their role in this endeavor, effective teacher supervision and evaluation systems that inform teacher professional development and improve instruction are essential; however, disagreement over what those systems should measure remains, and some researchers caution against relying on student test scores as a valid metric (Baker et al, 2010). These systems are important for teachers who require improved knowledge and skills to help students perform to their fullest potential and for teachers who are currently performing at the highest levels. Regardless of the current political context, effective teacher performance appraisal systems are a core element in the effort to improve student learning and necessary to inform compensation systems based on teacher performance.
Currently, teacher supervision and evaluation systems vary greatly across the nation, particularly for tenured teachers, but the results of these diverse systems are remarkably similar. The 2009 publication The Widget Effect (Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling), a study of teacher evaluation practices in 12 diverse districts in four states, found that over 99% of tenured teachers in districts using a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating system earned a positive rating. Among districts with more than two rating options, 94% of the teachers still earned one of the top two ratings, and less than 1% were rated unsatisfactory.
Teacher evaluations systems are not consistent across states because state laws and district policies on teacher evaluations vary in their requirements for teachers and for those who conduct their performance appraisals. For example, 14 states require school systems to evaluate their public school teachers annually. One state requires evaluations of tenured teachers twice a decade (Toch & Rothman, 2008). Sixteen states require evaluations to include some objective measures of student learning, and four states require evidence of student learning as the prevailing criterion for teacher evaluation (Zinth, 2010). Two-thirds of union contracts require teachers to be evaluated annually and a quarter of them require evaluations every three years (Toch & Rothman, 2008). A 2008 Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Midwest study (Mathers, Oliva, & Laine) on teacher evaluation policies found that fewer than 1 out of 10 district policies required training for personnel conducting the evaluations. A commonly stated purpose of teacher evaluations is targeted professional development to improve teacher effectiveness; however, a presentation from Linda Darling-Hammond (2010), education policy expert and professor of education at Stanford University, noted that well under half of all teachers receive continuous professional development, mentoring, or coaching, or engage in peer observation as a result of evaluation. Ninety percent of teachers participate in one or two-day workshops or conferences to fulfill professional development requirements in lieu of participation in sustained professional development that has been shown to deliver significant returns in student achievement, such as lesson study, peer observation and coaching, and ongoing learning opportunities embedded in practice.
- NASSP is committed to continuous improvement of schools and the quality of teaching to improve student learning as articulated in the NASSP Framework for School Improvement, which is based on the Breaking Ranks series.
- NASSP recognizes that school administrators are the instructional leaders of the school and as such should be experts in instruction and in assessing and enhancing the instructional performance of their staff as evidenced by student performance.
- NASSP believes that teaching is a complex craft and that evaluation of effective teaching should be based on close examination of a variety of variables through quantitative and qualitative data, take into account the context in which a teacher works, and not be limited to students’ performance on standardized tests.
- NASSP recognizes that although states or districts currently bear the responsibility for creating the structure and format of teacher performance appraisals and determining the multiple measures used in assessing the teacher’s performance, principals carry out the process of daily supervision and are responsible for the development of teachers’ capacity to perform effectively.
- States and districts should develop frameworks for teacher performance appraisal that are based on research-supported best practices, consistent in application, fair to teachers and evaluators, and valid and reliable measures of teacher performance.
- States and districts should include multiple measures of performance, including but not limited to input measures such as evidence of a teacher’s knowledge of subject matter; skill in planning, delivering, monitoring, and assessing students’ learning; skill in developing and maintaining positive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues; knowledge and skill in pedagogical methods to meet the needs of students with an array of learning styles and needs; and commitment to students’ learning to their utmost potential. Examples of outcome data that are also appropriate and necessary to assess teacher effectiveness are students’ individual growth and progress as measured on valid and reliable standardized instruments, teacher-made tests that aligned with the curriculum, student performance demonstrations in a variety of media, and portfolios of student work.
- States and districts should establish systems in which all stakeholders collaborate in the development of teacher performance appraisal processes and instruments to create ownership and commitment to effective performance appraisal focused on improved student learning.
- States and districts should establish performance appraisal frameworks that recognize improved teaching as the collective responsibility of principals, assistant principals, teacher leaders, teachers, and district office personnel utilizing subject-area and grade-level specialists to enrich the appraisals and more effectively guide subsequent professional development.
- States and districts should take into consideration the demands placed on the principal and other personnel who conduct the evaluations because effective teacher performance appraisal must to be thorough and accurate—thus, time and labor intensive.
- States and districts should create performance appraisal systems with differentiated approaches to evaluation that are based on teachers’ knowledge, skills, and experience. For example, beginning teachers may require more intensive supervision in the evaluation process.
- States and districts should provide comprehensive training to personnel who contribute to an evaluation to ensure effective and fair evaluations.
- States and districts should use evaluation results to determine the professional development opportunities they provide for teachers. NASSP recommends in its Breaking Ranks series that schools develop an individualized professional growth plan that is aligned with the school improvement plan for all adults in the building.
- States and districts should require that principal licensure programs include evidence of knowledge of methods of teacher evaluation and evidence of proficiency in supervision of instruction as core competencies.
- States and districts should create a committee comprised of teachers, state and local teachers union or collective bargaining representatives, principals, assistant principals, and district administrators to select or develop validated and reliable evaluation instruments that its constituent districts and schools can use.
- Congress should establish within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act a federal definition for a “highly effective teacher” that includes criteria, such as but not limited to knowledge of subject matter; skill in planning, delivering, monitoring, and assessing students’ learning; skill in developing and maintaining positive relationships with students, parents, and colleagues; knowledge and skill in pedagogical methods to meet the needs of students with an array of learning styles and needs; and commitment to students’ learning to their utmost potential. Examples of outcome criteria that are also appropriate and necessary are students’ individual growth and progress as measured on valid and reliable standardized instruments, teacher-made tests that are aligned with the curriculum, student performance demonstrations in a variety of media, and portfolios of student work.
- The U.S. Department of Education should support ongoing research to establish the validity and reliability of comprehensive teacher evaluation programs, further examine the efficacy of value added models of teacher evaluation, and support adequate training and professional development of evaluators to insure fidelity of implementation of evaluation models found to be effective in improving teaching and learning.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010, August). Developing powerful teaching: What it will really take to leave no child behind. PowerPoint presented at the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Education Policy in Portland, OR. District of Columbia Public Schools.
NASSP Board Position Statement. (2007). Highly effective principals. Retrieved from https://www.nassp.org/policy-advocacy-center/nassp-position-statements/highly-effective-principals/
Toch, T. (2008). Fixing teacher evaluation. Education Leadership, 66(2), Pages 32–37. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct08/vol66/num02/Fixing-Teacher-Evaluation.aspx
Weisberg, D., Sexton, S., Mulhern, J., & Keeling, D. (2009). The widget effect: Our national failure to acknowledge and act on differences in teacher effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.tntp.org/index.php/publications/reports/the-widget-effect
Zinth, J. (2010). Teacher evaluation: New approaches for a new decade. ECS Issue Brief. Retrieved from http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/86/21/8621.pdf