Is Arne Duncan’s Teacher Evaluation Moratorium Unnecessary?

Guestpost by Chad Aldeman and Carolyn Chuong:

In his back-to-school speech last week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised several states for their progress in developing new teacher evaluation systems. In noting that too much testing can “rob school buildings of joy, and cause unnecessary stress,” Secretary Duncan called for states to postpone using test results to evaluate teachers for one school year.

Yet some states now using student test scores to evaluate teachers don’t seem to be producing results that should cause much stress for teachers. Hawaii and Delaware, for instance, now both include student growth in their teacher evaluation systems. But out of 11,300 teachers in Hawaii, only 25 teachers (0.2 percent) were deemed “unsatisfactory.” In Delaware, 0 percent of teachers were rated “ineffective” (the lowest rating) and only 1 percent were found to “need improvement.”

Hawaii and Delaware are not exceptions: Across the country, the “new” teacher evaluations that include student growth continue to look a lot like the old ones that did not consider student performance. How could this be? In our new paper, Teacher Evaluations in an Era of Rapid Change: From “Unsatisfactory” to “Needs Improvement,” (pdf) we examine the ongoing effort to revamp teacher evaluations.

After collecting and synthesizing data from 17 states and the District of Columbia, we found that, despite state policy changes, many districts still don’t factor student growth into teacher evaluation ratings in a meaningful way. And, despite concerns that one-size-fits-all teacher evaluation models would limit local autonomy, districts continue to have wide discretion even under “statewide” evaluation systems—and that’s not entirely a good thing. The result is that in many places there is still no clear connection between student academic achievement and educator evaluations.

To read about the new evaluation systems and the preliminary lessons for policymakers, download the full report here.

Chad Aldeman is an associate partner at Bellwther Education where Carolyn Chuong is an analyst.

3 Replies to “Is Arne Duncan’s Teacher Evaluation Moratorium Unnecessary?”

  1. The obvious reason for almost every teacher getting a “satisfactory” evaluation is rarely mentioned. Here it is:

    Arne, Michael, Andrew, Michelle and Joel do not want to teach children. The job is poorly paid and has very little status in American society. Because of this, most districts, except in times of economic distress, have great difficulty hiring and retaining teachers. For this reason, the main objective of most school districts is to hang on to every teacher who can maintain order in the classroom.

    It’s been like this for many, many years. To change the “status quo” we’d have to improve teacher compensation and professional autonomy.

  2. What level of unsatifactory or needs improvement ratings would indicate to you that these this student achievement process is working? As in a previous comment, it is often the case that administrators are reluctant to let go of a marginal teacher because the replacement teacher may be even worse. It is not as if there are highly qualified teachers just stantind in line waiting for jobs in the poverty stricken neighborhoods of America. I have worked in New Orleans, LAUSD and Sacramento City Unified School Dist. Orleans Parish and LAUSD both had TFA. Most of the TFAers I can in contact with did not last two years, some not even one. We had to hand hold. We had a joke that they would go to the Principal and say, ” I am going to do something easy, like go to law school.” The point is sometimes and ineffective teacher is still inferior to a long term sub. Most of the people who push these kinds of evaluation schemes have not spent much time in innercity schools.

  3. The problem is that we keep talking about summative teacher evaluation, not formative teacher evaluation. We need to change to observing teachers routinely, especially those that are new or we find to have difficulty, for the purpose of getting them better so that in the end, using student data won’t matter.

    Observation and Evaluation are different. Arne took on the wrong “alligator.” Observation practices are what need to change and there is a clear distinction between this and evaluation. Observation and feedback is what gets the situation for kids better. If I observe and tell you — good job– you might think that the good job referred to how you had the chairs arranged, which in and of itself won’t change student learning. But if I tell you — good job in clarifying student questions and providing students with positive feedback — maybe I might do more of this behavior and maybe my scores would improve.

    Sorry, this evaluation emphasis is not what matters most to kids.

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