Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

ResearchHow should we evaluate teachers and their contributions  to student achievement?  What measures are best?   This page links to research that I have found helpful in exploring the very complex answer to this question. 

Most of these articles are from academic journals.  Therefore they are technical in nature, but are still accessible and understandable to non-specialists like me.  My advice:  read the introduction and the conclusion.  Skim the rest.  Don’t get scared off by the math & statistics.

1. The Widget Effect (Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, Keeling, 2009)
Bob’s simple summary:   This report from The New Teacher Project examines how 12 school districts in four states use teacher evaluation to make human resources decisions. The report portrays current teacher evaluation practices as a broken system perpetuated by a culture that refuses to identify and deal with performance problems and that fails to reward excellence. Teachers receive very little useful feedback on their performance, and their development plans are disconnected from areas of teaching deficiency.  The study proposes how to build teacher evaluation systems that are more credible and useful.

2. What Makes for a Good Teacher and Who Can Tell (Harris, Sass, 2009)
Bob’s simple summary:   The authors examine teacher characteristics that predict teacher quality, including subjective evaluations done by school principals.  They find principal’s subjective ratings of teachers are positively correlated with “value added” measures. In addition, teachers’ subject knowledge, teaching skill, and intelligence are associated with both teacher ‘value added’ and the overall subjective teacher ratings of principals.   Finally, they conclude that principal’s subjective performance ratings of teachers are better predictors of a teacher’s value added than traditional approaches to teacher compensation focused on experience and formal education. They recommend combining subjective principal ratings with objective value-added measures to determine teacher compensation, rather than using traditional step and lane systems.

3.  Gates Foundation – Ensuring Fair and Reliable Measures of Effective Teaching (2013)
Bob’s simple summary:   Can effective teaching be identified and measured?  This non-technical briefing, based on observation of over 3,000 teachers, says “Yes, it can.”  Moreover, it is best done using a combination of classroom observations, student standardized test results, and surveys of students perceptions of their teachers.  And by following a few best practices, this approach can yield accurate, reliable results that teachers and administrators can trust.


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