Is Arne Duncan’s Teacher Evaluation Moratorium Unnecessary?



By and 09/02/2014

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In his back-to-school speech, 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 and Carolyn Chuong

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

This first appeared on Eduwonk




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