Grading the Graders: A Report on Teacher Evaluation Reform in Education

Georgetown-University-LogoA recent report from Thomas Toch at Georgetown University analyzes the national teacher-evaluation reform movement and finds that it has been far more beneficial than its many critics would suggest. In a growing number of states and school districts, new, more meaningful evaluation systems have focused principals’ attention on instruction, prompted valuable discussions in schools about what good teaching is and what it looks like in classrooms, helped school officials make better-informed staffing decisions, and created a foundation for new teacher roles and responsibilities.

Toch states:

By linking employment to student achievement for the first time in public education’s history, enabling smarter staffing decisions, and providing a foundation for new roles and responsibilities for teaching’s most talented practitioners, the transformation in teacher evaluation has put teaching, long an occupation of last resort, on the path to becoming a far more vibrant, performance-driven profession.

The movement has had plenty of problems–not surprisingly, given the pace and scale of reform of a core element of the educational enterprise.

But the infrastructure needed to support high-quality evaluation systems is catching up to reformers’ aspirations. And teachers are increasingly sympathetic to the reforms, especially, not surprisingly, when the reforms help them improve their teaching, which states and schools districts are increasingly focused on doing.

Teachers say they value outside observers, especially subject-matter and grade-level experts, both because they don’t always trust their principals to be fair and because they think they’ll get more helpful feedback from instructional experts.

For more data and analysis, see the full report on Teacher Evaluation Reform.