Much of the attention to recent developments in the United States on teacher evaluation policy has focused on high stakes uses of evaluation results or the ability of system measures to differentiate performance. In this chapter, the authors review one state's efforts to build a learning-centered teacher evaluation system. Following an overview of the principles embraced during the state's development and roll-out the system, the focus turns to the evaluation design, including how the measures, processes and training build on the principles. Findings from district visits illustrate local implementation opportunities and struggles. The authors describe current statewide training plans in response to preliminary implementation findings and conclude with challenges that will need to be addressed to promote learning-centered evaluation.
Prior research on teacher evaluation highlighted problems with evaluation design, implementation and impact (Loup, Garland, Ellett, & Rugutt, 1996; Medley & Coker, 1987; Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling, 2009; Wise, Darling-Hammond, McLaughlin, & Bernstein, 1984). Teacher evaluations were largely seen as perfunctory, and based on limited evidence of practice, with basic observation checklists, and outdated teacher evaluation standards. As a result, both teachers and principals held low expectations for the use of evaluation results to inform practice changes or personnel decisions.
Economic studies of teacher effects (Chetty, Friedman, & Rockoff, 2011; Dee & Wyckoff, 2013; Hanushek, 2010) and meta-analyses of teaching practices (Hattie, 2009) demonstrate the impact of teachers on student learning outcomes. Although these studies confirm the large contribution of student home environment (i.e., socioeconomic status, parent involvement in learning), the research indicates that teaching practices have important influence on student learning and there is more variation in teacher effectiveness within schools than between schools.
A final impetus for the new teacher evaluation approaches relates to the promise of multi-measure, standards-based evaluation designs to inform professional growth and a range of human resource decisions (Milanowski, Kimball, & Odden, 2005; Taylor & Tyler, 2012; Kane & Staiger, 2012). Most recently, the Gates Foundation supported Measures of Effective Teaching studies (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2013) affirmed prior research on the validity of teacher observation measures based on the Framework for Teaching (Danielson, 2013), as well as extended knowledge on observer training and the potential for additional measures, such as student surveys and value-added student assessment results, to increase confidence in the use of multiple measures for teacher evaluation purposes.
Drawing on these three areas of research, policy initiatives including Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the School Improvement Grant program, and requirements for waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act issued by the Federal Department of Education, have called on states and districts to revise their teacher evaluation systems to include new measures of professional practice and student outcomes (Cosner et al., 2014). The initiatives have also required states and districts to apply the measures to a range of personnel decisions, such as hiring, contract renewal, pay, promotion, and professional development.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Growth-Oriented Evaluation: Performance assessment with the primary goal of improving an individual’s practice.
Observation: A primary source of evidence used to provide feedback on teaching practice as well as to assess teaching performance.
Continuous Improvement: An ongoing process of problem identification, planning, assessment, feedback, and plan revision that occurs in a cycle leading to growth of the individual, system, or organization.
Summary Year: In Wisconsin, Summary Year evaluations are required during the first year of employment in a district and every third year thereafter. Summary Year evaluations include assessment of all relevant Student Learning Objectives as well as a teacher practice assessment based on teaching standards (i.e., the Framework for Teaching).
Professional Practice Goals: Goals developed by educators using reflections on prior evaluation results and/or current self-assessment on teaching standards.
Student Learning Objective: Rigorous, attainable goals for student learning growth aligned to appropriate standards set by individual educators for a specific period of time.
Supporting Years: In Wisconsin, Supporting Years cover the two-year time period between Summary Year evaluations. During Supporting Years, educators engage in evaluation activities, but are not formally evaluated.
Feedback: Information provided, typically by another person or people, about performance based on observable evidence.
Educator Effectiveness System: A system of educator self-reflection, goal setting, data collection, and feedback that contributes to performance assessment and individual growth.