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States moving ahead with teacher evaluation policies

States are making strides in teacher evaluation systems, a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality finds.

The data tells the story of implementation on a wide-scale. The number of states dismissing teachers based on evaluation results is now at 18 plus the District of Columbia. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia demand annual evaluations of instructors (an increase of nine from just two years ago). But in perhaps the greatest indicator that how teachers are rated is becoming a priority for states, the study found that 32 states and DC have made changes to their teacher evaluation policy since 2008.

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During a conference call with reporters yesterday, Sandi Jacobs, Vice President at NCTQ, said the move towards greater teacher oversight is “taking big leaps forward even if there are some unanswered questions.”

NCTQ is a non-profit research group that advocates for increased teacher evaluation and accountability.

The report indicates that while the federal Race to the Top initiative developed by the Obama administration led to “unprecedented action among the states to secure a share of $4 billion … A significant portion of the competition focused on state efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.”

But Jacobs also told reporters state activity in improving teacher evaluation systems continued at a clip even after the RTT money ran out, suggesting to her the issue is becoming a priority even without immediate cash incentives.

Interestingly, some RTT-winning states were not exemplified in the report. Hawaii was singled out for having “little or no legislative or regulatory changes to show for its promises regarding great teachers and leaders.”

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/state-evaluation-shift-2009-2011.png

The report also singled out Massachusetts, another RTT state. The researchers explain: “Notably, the state’s final regulations (unlike the drafts leading up to the final) removed language requiring that the student performance measures be a significant factor in teacher evaluations.”

On teacher evaluations, NCTQ supports a use of several measures to assess teachers. Not surprisingly, the value-added method, which is based on gauging teacher performance on how well students do on standardized tests year to year, is touted. And while value-added data lacks sophistication today, it shouldn’t be discounted, write the authors. They cite previous research that replacing the “lowest performing 8 percent of teachers with an average teacher” would move the U.S. along in international rankings for math and science performance. However, the authors stressed teacher performance should be assessed through high-quality classroom observations, as well.

Nor should states wait before evaluation systems are seamless. The authors write, “Are emerging teacher effectiveness measures perfect? No. But they are a marked improvement on evaluation systems that find 99 percent of teachers effective with little attention to a teacher’s impact on students and offer little meaningful information on teachers’ strengths, weaknesses and professional development needs.”

How often a teacher is assessed wins a state points with NCTQ.

Jacobs spoke favorably of DC Public Schools–teachers are evaluated five times during the year through the district’s IMPACT program. 14 other states require districts to conduct evaluations of all teachers. The report also recommends a minimum probationary period for all new teachers, set at four years.

Jacobs was then asked by reporters whether NCTQ’s emphasis on state involvement might pre-empt the actions of local decision makers. Since the effort for increased evaluation measures is relatively new, she said districts likely need the help setting up effective systems.

The phone session also included Jane Hannaway, vice president of the American Institutes of Research and director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, who offered her input on the state of evaluation systems today. She opposes scaling down end of year exams, as some states like North Carolina decided to do. She also feels teachers want to know how their performance measures up, especially in schools educating high-needs or low-income students.

“Human nature,” Hannaway said, moves individuals who are not succeeding in a situation to “try to get out of them.”

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