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Steps for a Successful Teacher Evaluation

When did teacher evaluations become such a critical issue in the public school system? A Stanford University study indicates that teachers have a significant impact on how much students learn, sometimes as much as one full letter grade. Teacher evaluations are essential to ensure those tasked with cultivating young minds are meeting curriculum requirements and treating students fairly in the classroom.

Find out the steps for putting together a successful teacher evaluation and what elements professionals should be assessed on.

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Table of Contents

Why is teacher evaluation necessary?

How are teachers evaluated?

Student growth data

Observational evaluation

Student surveys

What happens after a teacher evaluation?

Steps for an effective teacher evaluation

1. Establish goals for the evaluation

2. Define the standard

3. Choose evaluation methods

4. Select and train evaluators

5. Conduct evaluations

6. Use the evaluation results

Tips for improving teacher evaluations

Focus on feedback

Support evaluators

Get more people involved

Teacher evaluations benefit everyone

Why is teacher evaluation necessary?

Teacher performance evaluations are a necessary tool to review the work teachers are doing in the classroom and see how it’s impacting their students. A 2009 report called the Widget Effect brought attention to the nationwide failure to address the differences in teachers’ abilities to successfully help children learn. Shockingly, the report found that across 12 different school districts, 99% of teachers were only ranked Satisfactory on their evaluations and that the firing of tenured teachers was almost nonexistent.

Implementing changes to schools based on the results of an evaluation helps provide better public education for kids of all ages. Evaluations can uncover the strengths and weaknesses of certain teachers, allowing them to be assigned more of the subjects they excel at teaching. Evaluation results also enable a board to identify teachers who are not performing up to standard and guide them back to the expected performance standards.

How are teachers evaluated?

As of 2019, 41 states require teachers to be evaluated in more than two rating categories. This is up from just 17 states requiring such data as recently as 2011.

Student growth data

34 states, as of 2019, take student growth into consideration as part of teacher evaluations. While standardized testing was overwhelmingly used to assess student growth back in 2015 (by 37 states), only 26 states used this method as the measure of student growth in 2019. Additionally, 28 states require annual evaluations of principals.

Observational evaluation

Depending on the state you’re operating in, it’s possible that you’ll need to evaluate your teaching staff multiple times over the course of a year. In 2019, the National Council on Teacher Equality reported that 10 states require multiple observations for all teachers. This is only required for some teachers in 27 states, while the remaining 14 require a single or no observation of teachers for performance evaluation.

These observations for the purpose of evaluating teachers are performed by administrators, school leaders or impartial third-party evaluators. Although 22 states require these evaluations annually as of 2019, 29 do not.

Student surveys

According to the same data from the National Council on Teacher Equality, just seven states required student surveys as part of teacher evaluations in 2019. This method of performance evaluation of teachers gives students an opportunity to provide feedback and express their concerns or appreciations for their teachers. 24 states explicitly allowed student surveys as part of teacher evaluations, but one state strictly prohibited it. The other 19 states had no official policy on this matter.

What happens after a teacher evaluation?

Following teacher evaluations, the rating U.S. teachers receive could impact their job a little, a lot or not at all, depending on their rating and board policies. As of 2019, there were 33 states that required an improvement plan be put in place for teachers who scored a less-than-effective rating on their evaluations.

Steps for an effective teacher evaluation

To conduct a teacher performance evaluation, a principal or school board must incorporate multiple elements in the evaluation. This helps give teachers a fair chance to demonstrate how effective they are in their jobs and how students are benefitting from their teachings. Annual evaluations are a useful tool for all educators, regardless of how effective they are in their role, because the process provides teachers with useful feedback about their classes, habits and student response to their teachings. They can make changes going forward based on this information to continue growing as professionals.

Follow these steps to create a teacher evaluation process that is beneficial to your school, students and school board.

1. Establish goals for the evaluation

Evaluating teachers solely for the purpose of reprimanding them if they don’t measure up can have a negative impact on your school staff’s performance. With this mentality, teachers are also unlikely to be receptive to the evaluation process.

Set goals for the evaluation that benefit everyone and look at more than just teacher practice. Ask yourself what stakeholders hope to achieve from the evaluation process. Does your school board need to improve teacher retention or increase standardized testing scores? There are big-picture goals that take some of the pressure off of the teacher.

2. Define the standard

To successfully evaluate teachers, there needs to be a standard against which they are measured. You can do this be looking at these core values:

  • Student Development
  • Learning Environments
  • Content Knowledge
  • Application of Content
  • Planning for Instruction
  • Teaching Strategies
  • Ethical Practice
  • Leadership and Collaboration

3. Choose evaluation methods

Once you know what you’re looking for and what outcomes you want to achieve, you must decide how you’re going to get that information. The most effective way to evaluate teachers is typically using a few different methods to obtain a wider breadth of less biased data.

Good options for evaluating teachers’ performance include:

  • Classroom observation
  • Principal observation
  • Student surveys
  • Standardized testing data
  • Instruction artifacts

Looking at these areas gives you various perspectives on where teachers are excelling and where they may be struggling. Classroom observation is usually done by a third-party, impartial administrator or school board representative. If they have significant concerns, they may recommend that the school principal conduct a follow-up observation.

Student surveys provide a learner’s perspective on how well the content of the lessons is being received in the classroom. Standardized testing can also show how well students are understanding various aspects of the curriculum.

Looking at instruction artifacts, such as a teacher’s lesson plan, is another useful tool in an evaluation. This aspect of the assessment helps demonstrate how well teachers are preparing for classes.

4. Select and train evaluators

Teacher evaluation shouldn’t be done by just anyone. To get an accurate and unbiased assessment of how well a teacher is performing, you need an evaluator with the knowledge and skills to review them fairly.

Consider who is eligible to perform the evaluations, whether you could have teachers evaluate each other and if the evaluator needs special training. You must provide information about the standards set out to the evaluator so they know what to look for.

5. Conduct evaluations

With trained evaluators in place, you can begin conducting your teacher evaluations through whichever methods you selected. If your main source of evaluation is in-class observation, be sure to schedule these dates well in advance. Prepare to distribute survey papers to students in class or set up an online survey that the entire student body can take to assess their specific teacher.

You will probably want to give teachers advanced notice that they will be evaluated so they can prepare the necessary lesson plan materials and perform their best during the class the evaluator is observing.

6. Use the evaluation results

Regardless of what your goals of evaluating teachers are (improving teacher performance, reducing turnover rates or improving student testing scores), you need an action plan outlining what to do with the results once you have them available. Questions to have answers to when studying the results of your assessments include:

  • What rating does a teacher need to receive before they require a performance improvement plan (PIP)?
  • What rating would make a teacher eligible for a promotion?
  • How will you implement strategies to improve performance for teachers who fall below the satisfactory level?
  • What indicators suggest a teacher could be moved to a different role, such as a principal?

After you answer these questions, you need to ensure you have the necessary HR and development resources to make these changes happen. Depending on how many teachers undergo evaluations within the same timeframe, there could be significant action taking place within your school board following the evaluations.

Tips for improving teacher evaluations

Teacher evaluations can be stressful, especially for the teachers involved who may feel like their job is on the line. Here are some helpful tips for getting the most out of this process.

Focus on feedback

To maximize the effectiveness of the evaluation process, ensure the focus is on providing constructive feedback to educators, rather than criticizing their methods. If there are issues to address in the classroom, it’s essential to share these with teachers in an actionable way. When you give criticism constructively, there should be an emphasis on what the teacher is doing well, as well as the areas where they can improve.

When addressing the aspects they can work on, offer suggestions or alternative methods for how a particular situation could’ve been handled or steps they can take to implement a positive change. This softens the harshness of criticism while benefiting students in the long run.

Support evaluators

The people evaluating teachers may not be skilled in coaching or providing critical feedback. Perhaps they simply have knowledge of the profession or childhood development that qualifies them to identify the strengths and weaknesses of educators. To effectively communicate their findings in a way that is helpful to teachers, the evaluators may need additional coaching or training.

Diversifying the ways data on teacher performance is collected can also improve the reception of educators to the feedback. If they receive ideas from their own students via a survey rather than all criticism following an in-classroom observation by a third party, they may be more likely to accept the advice.

Get more people involved

A broader perspective can be helpful when evaluating teacher performance. Rather than relying on the opinion of a single administrator to provide feedback, expand the number of people responsible for evaluating each person to get a more well-rounded opinion of their work. This could mean turning to other teachers to provide peer evaluations or gathering teachers in workshop settings to review constructive feedback in a way that feels less individualistic.

This approach may help teachers take the recommendations on board without being offended, deflated or defensive.

Teacher evaluations benefit everyone

Although at first glance a teacher evaluation may seem to focus entirely on the teacher’s career trajectory, the process actually serves a much larger purpose within the education system. Teacher evaluations hold educators accountable and act as a quality control measure to ensure students are receiving the best education possible.

When teachers are given useful feedback on how they can better serve students, they feel supported. Recognizing their strengths can also help a school board reduce the rate of teacher turnover. When teacher evaluations are well executed, they benefit the school district as a whole.

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