Teacher Evaluation

Overview

Teacher Evaluation

In 2009, a now often-cited study of teacher evaluations in multiple states found that just 1 percent of teachers were labeled unsatisfactory. That implicitly glowing appraisal of teacher performance stood in contrast to alarming achievement gaps among students of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and to a more general slippage of U.S. students in international rankings of student achievement. The study, titled “The Widget Effect,” came at a critical moment.

In 2009, a now often-cited study of teacher evaluations in multiple states found that just 1 percent of teachers were labeled unsatisfactory. That implicitly glowing appraisal of teacher performance stood in contrast to alarming achievement gaps among students of different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and to a more general slippage of U.S. students in international rankings of student achievement. The study, titled “The Widget Effect,” came at a critical moment.

Teacher evaluations tied to student achievement had become the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s education agenda and the favorite of a diverse coalition of school reformers. The argument appears common-sensical: If, as research shows, teachers are the most influential in-school factor affecting student learning, it would be reasonable to judge them, at least in part, on their students’ achievement.

Based on the chance for a slice of billions of dollars from Obama administration reform initiatives, dozens of state legislatures passed laws that cleared the way for such evaluations. But even some supporters of tying teachers’ performance ratings to student test scores concede that the policy changes moved faster than the research undergirding them. With limited technical know-how at the state and district levels and a shortfall of experts nationally, some efforts to overhaul teacher evaluation systems have been rushed, while others have become enmeshed in legal disputes. The issue has significant political stakes, with accountability-minded school leaders often pitted against unions seeking to protect members against what they see as unfair threats to teachers’ livelihoods. The experiment is playing out in real time and promises to remain contentious for years to come.

Until quite recently, the evaluation of teachers consisted primarily of infrequent “walk-throughs” conducted by untrained administrators, the end result typically being that most teachers were rated as top performers. This led to seemingly incongruous statistics. In Chicago, for example, just 54 percent of the class of 2011 graduated from high school, in a year when 99 percent of teachers were rated as effective. At the same time that administrators argued that current practices made it too difficult to fire poor performers, teachers complained that evaluation systems provided them with little guidance on how to improve. The 2009 study that documented minuscule numbers of unsatisfactory evaluations also found that 73 percent of teachers surveyed said their most recent evaluations did not identify any areas for improvement, and only 45 percent of teachers who did have such areas identified said they received useful support to improve.

Boost from Obama

The drive to revamp teacher evaluations got a major boost when the Obama administration placed $4.35 billion from the 2009 economic stimulus law in a competitive grant program called Race to the Top, which rewarded states for tying teacher evaluations to student achievement. The administration embedded similar incentives in its School Improvement Grant program to turn around low-performing schools, as well as an initiative to grant states waivers to some of the more unpopular aspects of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability provisions. In his 2012 State of the Union Address, Obama said that schools needed flexibility to implement evaluation systems that “reward the best” teachers and “replace teachers who aren’t helping kids learn.”

The administration’s push had an enormous effect, even on states that did not win federal funds. In 2009, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality, only 15 states required annual evaluations of all teachers, and 35 states did not require evaluations to include measures of student learning. By the end of 2012, those numbers had shifted dramatically: Forty-three states required annual teacher evaluations, with 32 incorporating student achievement.

From the outset, it was clear that the new evaluation systems came with high stakes. Teachers with low ratings could lose their jobs. Salaries, promotions and reputations also hung in the balance. But there were concerns that in their zeal to tackle some long-standing problems, the administration was moving faster than the speed of research. One report, provocatively titled “The Hangover,” warned of “the unintended consequences of the nation’s teacher evaluation binge.”

“Value-Added”

A major element of the new approach to teacher evaluations is a statistical technique known as “value-added” modeling. Value-added models compare test scores students earn in any given year to the scores they were predicted to attain based on prior tests and a host of other variables; if students exceed their predicted scores, the difference is seen as the teacher’s “added value.” But efforts to rate teachers’ effectiveness solely via value-added scores have been assailed by critics as inaccurate.

Fueling such criticisms have been fluctuations in teachers’ scores from one year to the next. For example, a 2010 study of five school districts found that of teachers who scored in the bottom 20 percent for value added one year, only 20 to 30 percent had similar rankings the next year, while 25 to 45 percent moved to the top of the rankings. A more fundamental problem for researchers is that while the models are meant to evaluate teachers’ effects when assigned to students randomly, this is an artificial construct that seldom looks like the way students are assigned in the real world.

The actual placement of students — in both schools and classes — is far from random. Parents influence where their children go to school and often to what class and teacher they are assigned. Teachers, via seniority, often select the school and classroom where they are placed. Hence, students assigned to a particular teacher may not be representative of the general population. Student achievement can also be influenced by variables outside of the teacher’s control like the physical condition of the schools, school policies and parental support. Finally, No Child Left Behind only requires assessments in math and reading, and only in certain grades. This leaves out the majority of teachers, many of whom find themselves awkwardly incorporated into the new evaluation rubric.

Regardless of one’s view of the quality of the research, it is generally understood that the newness of the field translates into a paucity of reliable models states and districts can choose from, and a scarcity in the pool of experts who can help implement them. In 2011, the former head of Race to the Top’s technical assistance network estimated there were eight researchers in the country with expertise to implement such systems.

Paul Pastorek, former state superintendent of education in Louisiana, expressed concerns that the U.S. Department of Education and many states had oversold the ease of implementing such models. “I think some [states] may be underestimating the resources and energy that these kinds of initiatives require … state departments of education are not designed to implement these programs,” he said. A study by the Data Quality Campaign found that just 11 states (and only four of the 12 Race to the Top winners) had all of the components necessary to implement sophisticated teacher evaluation models. Race to the Top states and several districts that received School Improvement Grants had to scale back proposed reforms or push back timetables due to teacher evaluation headaches. 

Evaluations in Practice

It didn’t help the cause of value-added models that an early high profile example of their use (or misuse) erupted in national controversy. The shot across the bow came not from a school but a newspaper. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times published what it called value-added measurements for 11,500 teachers, in which improvement on student test scores were the sole criteria. The statistics were roundly criticized even by the supporters of such models, most of whom believe they should be used as one factor in evaluation along with other criteria like classroom observations.

The public nature of the project played into fears that the evaluations would be punitive rather than used to aid instruction, a point that was driven home when one teacher who was ranked “less effective than average” committed suicide. In Washington, D.C., the implementation of the Impact evaluation system under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee led to the firing of more than 400 teachers, and fears that the measurements were behind a cheating scandal in which teachers at one school were found to have changed student’s answers on standardized tests.

After Rhee’s departure, the system was softened somewhat, lowering the weight given to test score improvement from 50 percent to 35 percent. Even in Tennessee, one of the first states to receive a Race to the Top grant, there have been severe implementation headaches. The state’s assistant superintendent noted the “fundamental unfairness” of methods used to evaluate the more than 60 percent of state teachers who practiced in areas in which there was no standardized test. A report by the state department of education found that while the model successfully identified the best teachers, it “systematically failed to identify the lowest-performing teachers, leaving these teachers without access to meaningful professional development and their students and parents without a reasonable expectation of improved instruction in the future.”

The Future

So where do things go from here? With the nation’s teachers’ unions ambivalent at best, the issue of value-added modeling is frequently battled out at the local level. A seven-day teachers’ strike in Chicago in 2012, for example, was sparked in part by a new policy that would base 40 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores. A similar dispute in New York City risked the loss of $450 million in Race to the Top Funds when the city missed a deadline to reach an agreement on new teacher evaluation policies in early 2013.

In Florida, a case brought by a teachers’ union led a judge to strike down the state’s new merit-pay provision. Under the law, teachers are graded on math and reading tests, but for those who teach other subjects, evaluations are based largely on the performance of other teachers. In 2013, the judge ruled the provision to be “wholly invalid.” One byproduct of the race to implement better teacher evaluations is a flurry of research that could bring aspects of the long-simmering debate closer to consensus. The most visible is a three-year, $45 million study spearheaded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of 3,000 teachers in seven school districts around the country. The study found that teacher evaluation systems based on multiple measures—including student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers, and ratings by students themselves—are better than those based on a single measure.

There are those, like the National Council on Teacher Quality, who claim that in the search for perfect teacher evaluation measures, policymakers are forgoing those that might nonetheless be better than what came before. A report from the pro-reform research and advocacy group put it this way: “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.”

Latest News

Obama’s Impact On America’s Schools

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the country was on edge, the economy in free-fall. The federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, was also in need of an update after earning the ire of teachers, parents and politicians alike. In short, there was much to do.

In time, that update would come, but President Obama’s education legacy begins, oddly enough, with his plan to bolster the faltering economy.

Member Stories

December 15 – December 22
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

This company trains schools how to respond to active shooter attacks, reports Dan Carsen for WBHM. Unlike other training, this group, which has partnered with 3,700 districts, encourages staff and students to fight back.

A heartwarming tale or a case study in picking favorites? Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel examines the merits of a Florida university absorbing a bionics company and the worries other firms have about an unfair competitive environment.

Member Stories

December 8-15
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel investigates how Orange County school board members spent $500,000 of taxpayer money over the last two years. “One board member paid $2,500 for a school mural that depicts herself,” she writes.

 

Starting in January, Portland Community College will teach a specially designed curriculum for nursing students left stranded by the closure of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute earlier this year, Andrew Theen reports for The Oregonian.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Webinar

More Than Scores: How to Cover Teacher Evaluation

More Than Scores: How to Cover Teacher Evaluation

Over the past decade, many states and school districts have overhauled the way they evaluate teachers. Some rely primarily on test scores; others add classroom observations. Some even bring student surveys into the mix. Meanwhile, new federal leeway may spark a fresh round of changes around the country.

What are some practical ways for journalists to write about the evaluation systems in the school districts they cover? What questions should they ask about design, implementation, training, and teacher attitudes toward the evaluations?

Report

Examining the Validity of Ratings from a Classroom Observation Instrument for Use in a District’s Teacher Evaluation System
WestEd

This validation study examined principals’ evaluation ratings of teachers made on an instrument adapted from the Danielson Framework for Teaching and used in the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada in 2012/13. Principals used a four-point rating scale to rate teachers on 22 teaching components. The teaching components were expected to measure four different dimensions of teaching.

EWA Radio

Raising the Bar for Teacher Certification 
EWA Radio: Episode 71

(Flickr/Don Voaklander)

How fair are controversial new tests being used by some states to certify teachers? Who are the prospective classroom educators struggling the most with the often costly, time-consuming process? And how might this impact efforts to diversify nation’s predominantly white, female, teacher workforce?

Writer Peggy Barmore of The Hechinger Report discusses these issues with EWA public editor Emily Richmond.

Report

Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices

In the winter of 2015, the Center on Education Policy surveyed a nationally representative sample of public school teachers to learn their views on the teaching profession, state standards and assessments, testing, and teacher evaluations. 

The report, Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices, summarizes these survey findings, including responses indicating that public school teachers are concerned and frustrated with shifting policies, over emphasis on student testing, and their lack of voice in decision-making. 

Key Coverage

Orange Teachers Angry About Evaluations

Many Orange County teachers are demoralized and angry about a state teacher evaluation report that showed Central Florida’s largest school district had fewer top-notch instructors than most districts in Florida.

The report released last week showed the percentage of Orange teachers deemed “highly effective” was 2.4 percent last school year, down from more than 80 percent the year before, and off the state average of 37.5 percent.

Report

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround
Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools. 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Report

Teacher Preparation Programs: Education Should Ensure States Identify Low-Performing Programs and Improve Information Sharing
United States Government Accountability Office

Among other things, GAO recommends that the Department of Education monitor states to ensure their compliance with requirements to assess whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing and develop mechanisms to share information about TPP quality within the agency and with states.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Multimedia

Falloff in Aspiring Teachers: Where and Why?
2015 EWA National Seminar

Falloff in Aspiring Teachers: Where and Why?

A data analysis by Education Week showed a decline in applicants to education schools in key states and Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuk walks participants through it. ACT’s Steve Kappler unveils a disturbing new report on a dropoff in high school graduates aspiring to teach. Other speakers review the implications of their findings and sources.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Talking To Teachers: Story Ideas For Reporters

For education reporters looking for story ideas, talking to teachers is a smart place to start. That was the key takeaway from the “Performance and Perceptions: Taking the Pulse of the Profession” session at EWA’s recent seminar on the teaching profession, held last month in Detroit.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What It Takes to Build Great Teachers

Author Elizabeth Green speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

If 49 multiplied by 5 is 245, why would a student think the answer is 405? And who is more likely to know this – a mathematician or an elementary math teacher?

Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone), posed this question to a roomful of education reporters at EWA’s October seminar in Detroit.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘The Teacher Wars’: Everything Old Is New Again

Dana Goldstein speaks with Greg Toppo in Detroit on Oct. 20, 2014. (Michael Marriott/EWA)

Education might seem more incendiary and political than ever before, but author Dana Goldstein argues that today’s biggest policy fights aren’t exactly new battles.

“We’ve been fighting about teachers for 175 years,” said Goldstein at EWA’s October seminar on teaching, held in Detroit. At the event, Goldstein discussed her new book, The Teacher Wars, published in September.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Teaching Profession: What Reporters Need to Know

Teacher Carmen Perry, left, talks with EWA members at the International Academy for Young Women, a single-gender public school, on Oct. 20, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

The stakes have arguably never been higher for public school teachers, who are facing not only an increasingly challenging student population but also new demands for accountability and performance. What lies ahead for the nation’s largest profession, with the rollout of new academic standards and new assessments to gauge how effectively students are being taught?

Multimedia

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center
EWA Seminar on Teaching

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Liam Goldrick, New Teacher Center

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?

Panelist:

Multimedia

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project
EWA Seminar on Teaching

Teacher Induction and Mentoring: Magdalene Lampert, Boston Residency Project

For new teachers, the first few years on the job can present a steep learning curve. And the students who need the most experienced teachers often don’t get them. How are schools, districts and states ramping up the support provided to new teachers? What are the hallmarks of a high-quality induction program? And what does the research show on the effects of coaching and mentoring?

Panelist:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions For… NCEE’s Marc Tucker
On School Accountability, Teachers, and the Common Core

Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker, president and chief executive of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recently unveiled a proposed accountability plan for public schools that includes significantly reducing the number of tests students take, and building extensive professional development time for teachers into every school day. He spoke with EWA.

Report

Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey
NCES

This First Look report provides some selected findings from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) along with data tables and methodological information. The TFS is a follow-up of a sample of the elementary and secondary school teachers who participated in the previous year’s Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The TFS sample includes teachers who leave teaching in the year after the SASS data collection and those who continue to teach either in the same school as last year or in a different school.

Report

Principals Have Lots of Teacher Effectiveness Data, But Don’t Use Them

Time and timing are two other key barriers to principal data use, noted Jason A. Grissom, assistant professor of public policy and education and a collaborator on the study. “Principals face so many demands on their time already, so it can be difficult to find the time to access and analyze data, particularly when those data are not always available to principals at the time talent management decisions need to be made,” he said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

For Waiver States, More Time for Teacher Evaluations

States receiving waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act are getting more time to grapple with how to conduct teacher evaluations using student test scores, particularly the new Common Core State Standards-based assessments.

According to Education Week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the postponement at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., which earlier this summer announced its plan to delay its new teacher evaluations.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher Evaluations: Education Reporting That Measures Up

Patrick O'Donnell (left), Lisa Gartner and Mackenzie Ryan at speak at the 67th National Seminar.

How teachers are evaluated is one of the most rapid changes in education policy, said Mackenzie Ryan, a Florida Today education reporter who moderated a panel on the topic at EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville.

With that as the backdrop, Lisa Gartner, a Tampa Bay Times reporter, and Patrick O’Donnell from the Cleveland Plain Dealer shared how they covered the topic in their home states.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Poll: Support for Common Core Slipping Among California Voters

Credit: flickr/rocksee

new poll from PACE/USC Rossier School of Education suggests California voters are losing enthusiasm for the Common Core State Standards.

PACE/Rossier pollsters spoke with more than 1,000 Californians to gauge their views on a number of key issues, including the recent Vergara vs. California teacher tenure ruling, the new Common Core standards, and the job performance of state and national policymakers. Among the highlights:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Nation’s Teacher Prep Programs Falling Short

If you’re wondering just how contentious a new set of rankings for the nation’s teacher preparation programs really are, consider this: the advocacy group that compiled them had to offer cash rewards to students for basic information such as syllabi when colleges and universities declined to provided them.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Judging Principals: Inside the Evaluation Debate

How should we judge the performance of Baton Rouge education reporter Charles Lussier?

That was the question posed by Vanderbilt University education professor Joseph Murphy, who suspected that by the second afternoon of EWA’s National Seminar his audience was ready for a fun exercise. Murphy talked about the difference between Lussier’s inputs (such as his education and technical skills), the work he does and his results (readership and response to his articles).

“What if we measure him on whether the paper increases circulation? Do you buy that?” Murphy asked.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Live From Nashville: EWA’s 67th National Seminar

I’ve often made the case that there’s no reporting beat where the reporters are more collegial – or more committed to their work – than education. EWA’s 67th National Seminar, hosted by Vanderbilt University, helped to prove that point.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Weingarten Talks Teachers, Politics and Common Core

Lyndsey Layton (right) of The Washington Post interviews Randi Weingarten at the 67th National Seminar.

When Randi Weingarten gets depressed about the state of public education, she told attendees of EWA’s 67th National Seminar, she calls up memories of her students at the “We the People” competition in upstate New York a couple of decades ago.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tennessee’s Haslam Aims for Mantle of Education Governor

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam addresses attendees at the 67th National Seminar.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam laughingly admitted during a speech at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar this week that his state hasn’t always been known as a “hotbed of education reform”—or frankly, a place known for its academic achievement.

Moreover, he wasn’t the state CEO who ushered in a series of dramatic education policy changes that has put the state on the national school reform map. Still, he said at the May 19 appearance in Nashville, he’s been the guy “standing in the doorway making sure we don’t retreat.”

Report

Performance Screens for School Improvement: The Case of Teacher Tenure Reform in New York City

Tenure reforms in NYC led to a substantial drop in the percent of eligible teachers approved for tenure – from 94 percent during academic years 2007-08 and 2008-09, the two years prior to the introduction of the policy, to 89 percent in the first year of the policy (2009-10) and to an average of 56 percent during the three subsequent years.
The vast majority of eligible teachers who were not approved for tenure had their probationary period extended. The proportion of teachers denied tenure changed only slightly, from two to three percent, following reform.

Report

Evaluating Teachers With Classroom Observations
Lessons Learned in Four Districts

As the majority of states continue to design and implement new evaluation systems, the time is right to ask how existing teacher evaluation systems are performing and in what practical ways they might be improved.

This Brookings Institution report helps to answer those questions by examining the actual design and performance of new teacher evaluation systems in four urban school districts that are at the forefront of the effort to meaningfully evaluate teachers. 

Report

Instructional Alignment as a Measure of Teaching Quality
Morgan S. Polikoff and Andrew Porter

Recent years have seen the convergence of two major policy streams in U.S. K–12 education: standards/accountability and teacher quality reforms. Work in these areas has led to the creation of multiple measures of teacher quality, including measures of their instructional alignment to standards/assessments, observational and student survey measures of pedagogical quality, and measures of teachers’ contributions to student test scores.

Report

Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges
A Decade Of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms

This report by Bellwether Education Partners examines how the teacher quality movement took hold and propelled policy changes in dozens of states. Here are excerpts from its executive summary:

The perception of teachers as widgets began to change in the late 1990s and early aughts as new organizations launched and policymakers and philanthropists began to concentrate on teacher effectiveness. Under the Obama administration, the pace of change quickened. …

Post

American Statistical Association Statement on Value-Added Models
Use of VAM for Educational Assessment

Many states and school districts have adopted Value-Added Models (VAMs) as part of educational accountability systems. The goal of these models, which are also referred to as Value-Added Assessment (VAA) Models, is to estimate
effects of individual teachers or schools on student achievement while accounting for differences in student background. VAMs are increasingly promoted or mandated as a component in high-stakes decisions such as determining
compensation, evaluating and ranking teachers, hiring or dismissing teachers, awarding tenure, and closing schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Survey: Teachers Say Their Voices Aren’t Being Heard

When it comes to having their voices heard, teachers overwhelmingly say they aren’t being listened to on matters of education policy at the state or national level.

At the school level, however, 69 percent of teachers said their opinions carried weight, according to the third edition of the “Primary Sources”  survey by Scholastic and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was published Tuesday.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Compelling Principal Stories: It Can Be Done

One of the education system’s most powerful influences on student learning is often ignored — the school principal. Journalists frequently find it challenging to capture the complexities of the job. But the collection of coverage we’ve assembled underscores that this facet of the education beat is replete with interesting angles.

Report

Effective Instructional Time Use for School Leaders: Longitudinal Evidence from Observations of Principals

We find that principals’ time spent broadly on instructional functions does not predict student achievement growth. Aggregating across leadership behaviors, however, masks that some specific instructional investments predict year-to-year gains. In particular, time spent on teacher coaching, evaluation, and developing the school’s educational program predict positive achievement gains. In contrast, time spent on informal classroom walkthroughs negatively predicts student growth, particularly in high schools.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions Education Reporters Should Ask About Teacher Evaluations


EWA headed to the University of Chicago last month with about 50 reporters from across the country for some frank talk about teacher evaluations. You can catch up with podcasts of some of the sessions here.

We also spent some time brainstorming story ideas, and I wanted to share a few of them – not all of them – with you. (Hey, there has to be some benefits to in-person attendance, right?)

Story Lab

Story Lab: Teacher Evaluation

Few areas of education policy are moving more quickly than teacher evaluations. In 2009, annual evaluations of teachers were mandatory in just 15 states. Today, that number stands at 25. Additionally, in order to qualify for federal Race to the Top competitive grants and No Child Left Behind waivers, states had to pledge to use student assessment data as a factor in measuring a teacher’s performance. At the same time, few issues are fraught with more politics—and potential controversy—than teacher evaluations.

Seminar

Recap: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations

More than 50 reporters joined EWA for our seminar “More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations,” held Oct. 10th and 11th at the University of Chicago. As always, we look forward to the coverage inspired by the event. So far, we know about the following stories:

EWA Radio

Confessions of a Bad Teacher

John Owens, who worked in the media world, decided he wanted to contribute to society by becoming a teacher. He lasted only a few months and wrote an article called “Confessions of a Bad Teacher.” The column hit a nerve and the article became a book. Owens will describe his experiences as a teacher with evaluations, classroom observations and a principal who gamed the system. Author John Owens interviewed by Greg Toppo of USA Today. Recorded Oct. 11, 2013 at More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations.

EWA Radio

The Chicago Perspective: A New Model for Teacher Evaluations in the Windy City

How are teacher evaluations impacting teaching and learning in the nation’s fifth-largest school district? How might Chicago’s experience be a teachable moment for educators and policymakers in other communities? Panelists: Linda Lenz, Catalyst Chicago (moderator); Carol Caref, Chicago Teachers Union; Paulette Poncelet, Chicago Public Schools; Sue Sporte, University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Recorded Oct. 11, 2013 at More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations.

EWA Radio

The Early Education Connection: Measuring the Youngest Learners

Robert Pianta describes his extensive research into what makes a good early childhood education teacher and how the University of Virginia developed an instrument to measure early childhood teachers. Laura Bornfreund discusses the different approaches being used by districts to measure student growth for the purpose of evaluating early childhood education (Pre-K-grade 3) teachers as well as the potential hurdles to widespread, reliable implementation. Panelists: Cornelia Grumman (moderator); Laura Bornfreund, New America Foundation; Bob Pianta, University of Virginia. Recorded Oct.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations

I’m at the University of Chicago for the next few days for our EWA seminar for journalists looking at the current — and future — landscape for teacher evaluations. We’ll be posting content from the sessions, but in the meantime you can get up to speed with a handy backgrounder over on EdMedia Commons. You can also check out some recent posts I’ve written on this and related topics:

EWA Radio

Teacher Evaluations and Equity: A National Overview

How are states responding to the push for greater accountability and transparency in how teacher job performance is measured? How are union leaders helping members adjust to the new expectations? Can evaluations be used as a lever to more equitably distribute teacher talent, and ensure the neediest students get the most effective instruction? Speakers include Stephanie Banchero, Wall St. Journal (moderator); Sandi Jacobs, National Council on Teacher Quality; Sarah Lenhoff, director of policy and research, Education Trust – Midwest; and Dennis Van Roekel, National Education Association.

EWA Radio

More than Scores: Framing Remarks from Tim Knowles

To open EWA’s 2013 workshop on teacher evaluations, Tim Knowles of the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute talks about how the changing landscape of teacher evaluations is influencing broader conversations about school improvement and student achievement. Recorded Oct. 10, 2013 at EWA’s education reporting workshop More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations.

EWA Radio

Understanding and Using Value-Added Data

What questions should reporters be asking when using evaluation-related data in stories? What is incumbent for reporters to learn about the use of student growth, and what is incumbent for officials to provide when they report the numbers? How can reporters convey the nuance without dulling their prose? Sabrina Laine, AIR, interviewed by Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week Recorded Oct. 10, 2013 at EWA’s education reporting workshop More Than Scores: Assessing the Future of Teacher Evaluations.

Multimedia

How I Did the Story: Beat Reporting in a Medium Newsroom

How I Did the Story: Beat Reporting in a Medium Newsroom

Benjamin Herold of Education Week talks about the coverage he did for WHYY and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook in 2012, a particularly tumultuous year for the city’s school system. Herold’s coverage was awarded first prize in the beat reporting category, medium newsroom, in EWA’s 2012 National Awards for Education Reporting. Recorded at EWA’s 66th National Seminar, May 4, 2013 at Stanford University.

Multimedia

Arthur Levine: Lessons Learned About Teacher Education

Arthur Levine: Lessons Learned About Teacher Education

Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, delivers the keynote address at EWA’s Oct. 26, 2012 seminar, “Ready to Teach: Rethinking Routes to the Classroom.”

Recorded at the University of Minnesota.

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Reporters’ Role: How Are News Outlets Covering the Story?

Reporters’ Role: How Are News Outlets Covering the Story?

Is the Fourth Estate influencing the debate over teacher evaluations? Should media publish data, by name, on the estimated value that teachers add to student test scores? What questions should reporters ask about value-added measures and other issues in reforming teacher evaluation? Recorded at EWA’s Nov. 12, 2011 Teacher Evaluation Seminar at the University of Chicago.

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States of Change: Political Realities and Policy Reforms

States of Change: Political Realities and Policy Reforms

What are the thorniest issues states are facing in developing and putting in place new approaches? How are they striking the balance between state leadership and local flexibility? How much are state policies being influenced by federal carrots and sticks? Recorded at EWA’s Nov. 12, 2011 Teacher Evaluation Seminar at the University of Chicago.

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National Perspective: Common Themes, Different Contexts

National Perspective: Common Themes, Different Contexts

What lessons can be learned from initiatives around the country to revamp the way teacher performance is assessed? What role is federal policy playing in driving change? How are partnerships among districts, unions, and reformers playing out?

Panel recorded at EWA’s Nov. 12, 2011 Teacher Evaluation Seminar.

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In the Trenches: How Teachers See the Issues

In the Trenches: How Teachers See the Issues

What is the evaluation process typically like for a classroom teacher? How do teachers think the process could best be changed so that the results would actually help them improve? Do teachers think emerging approaches to evaluation are useful and fair? Recorded at EWA’s Nov. 12, 2011 Teacher Evaluation Seminar at the University of Chicago.

Webinar

Teacher Evaluations: A State-by-State Overview and Lessons From Early Adopters
1 hour 3 minutes

In advance of its 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook, the National Council on Teacher Quality offers a closer look into what is shaping up to be a critically important education policy trend. Across the nation states are engaged in create teacher evaluation systems to provide meaningful information about teacher performance, based in significant ways on student achievement, and tying information on teacher effectiveness to decisions of consequence about tenure, compensation, professional development and advancement.

Organization

The National Education Association

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest teachers’ union with nearly 3 million members. Its members work at every level of education, from preschool through postsecondary, but the bulk of its members work in K-12 education.

Organization

The National Council on Teacher Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a nonpartisan research group that advocates for reforms with the goal of ensuring that each student has an effective teacher. Among other things, they gather information about policies affecting teacher preparation, compensation, evaluations and other issues on a state-by-state basis.

Key Coverage

As State Watches, L.A. Unified Tests New Ways to Grade Teachers

Nowhere else in California has the debate over the use of student test scores to grade teachers gained more attention than in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The second-largest school district in the nation at more than 640,000 students, Los Angeles Unified has become a testing ground to increase accountability for teachers, a movement that has gained speed across the nation. 

Report

Culture of Countenance: Teachers, Observers and the Effort to Reform Teacher Evaluations

Ten years ago, policymakers began to recognize that evaluation systems were not meaningfully distinguishing between teachers despite wide variations in teacher effectiveness. Even though some teachers were quite good–and others quite poor–at helping students make significant learning gains, these differences were not reflected in evaluations. In response, reform-minded legislatures and school systems in states such as Florida, Tennessee and Texas pursued overhauls of their evaluation systems. The result? Just as under the old systems, 97 percent of teachers are still rated as satisfactory or better. 

Key Coverage

Bush, Obama focus on standardized testing leads to ‘opt-out’ parents’ movement

A decade into the school accountability movement, pockets of resistance to standardized testing are sprouting up around the country, with parents and students opting out of the high-stakes tests used to evaluate schools and teachers. From Seattle, where 600 high school students refused to take a standardized test in January, to Texas, where 86 percent of school districts say the tests are “strangling our public schools,” anti-testing groups argue that bubble exams have proliferated beyond reason, delivering more angst than benefits.

Key Coverage

Teacher-Evaluation Plans Bedevil Waiver States

Even though 34 states and the District of Columbia have No Child Left Behind Act waivers in hand, many of them are still negotiating with the U.S. Department of Education over their teacher-evaluation systems—a crucial component if they want to keep their newfound flexibility.

Report

MET Project

The MET project was a research partnership between 3,000 teacher volunteers and dozens of independent research teams. The project’s goal was to build and test measures of effective teaching to find out how evaluation methods could best be used to tell teachers more about the skills that make them most effective and to help districts identify and develop great teaching.

Key Coverage

Should Student Test Scores Be Used To Evaluate Teachers?

How much to credit—and blame—teachers for student performance is an issue that continues to confound the education field. To what extent is each student’s progress directly attributable to the teacher’s efforts? What other factors can determine a student’s success? Is there a way to measure each factor separately, including the teacher’s influence?

Key Coverage

Federal Teacher Evaluation Requirement Has Wide Impact

In the Obama administration’s new push to turn around the bottom 5 percent of schools nationwide, the vast majority of districts chose the reform option that seemed the least invasive: Instead of closing schools or firing at least half of the teaching staff, schools could undergo less aggressive interventions, such as overhauling how teacher performance is measured and rewarding teachers who do well.

Key Coverage

States Try to Fix Quirks in Teacher Evaluations

Spurred by the requirements of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition, Tennessee is one of more than a dozen states overhauling their evaluation systems to increase the number of classroom observations and to put more emphasis on standardized test scores. But even as New York State finally came to an agreement last week with its teachers’ unions on how to design its new system, places like Tennessee that are already carrying out similar plans are struggling with philosophical and logistical problems.

Report

State of the States

A look at how various states have changed their evaluation policies in the wake of Obama administration policy changes like Race to the Top.