Conducted by Herbert G. Heneman III, Anthony Milanowski, Steven Kimball, and Allan Odden
Purpose of study
To review findings from research on standards-based teacher evaluation systems, many of which use the Danielson Framework for Teaching (FFT) to define a competency model of effective teaching against which individual teachers’ classroom practice is compared.
- What is the relationship between teachers’ standards-based teacher evaluation scores or ratings and the achievement of their students?
- How do teachers and administrators react to standards-based teacher evaluation as a measure of instructional expertise?
- Is there evidence that standards-based teacher evaluation systems influence teacher practice?
- Do design and implementation processes make a difference?
The authors review research from four districts that implemented standards-based teacher evaluation systems based on the FFT: Cincinnati, Washoe, Coventry, and Vaughn. The number of teachers involved ranged from 40 at one charter school in Los Angeles (Vaughn) to 3,300 teachers at 88 schools in Washoe County, Nevada. A table on page 3 of the report summarizes the characteristics of the four evaluation sites.
- There were positive relationships between standards-based teacher evaluation scores and student achievement, but the strength of the relationship varied between sites. At Vaughn and in Cincinnati the relationships between teacher ratings and student achievement were substantial (0.26 to 0.37) while in Washoe County and Coventry the relationships were smaller (0.11 to 0.23). The correlations in Cincinnati and at Vaughn may have been higher because these sites used multiple evaluators and received intensive, high-quality training.
- Interviews and surveys at three sites revealed positive reactions to the standards-based teacher evaluation system, especially to the competency model (the FFT) underpinning it. Teachers agreed that the performance described at higher levels of the rubric described high-quality teaching. They appreciated that this provided a clear and concise understanding of performance expectations for their instructional practice. Teachers also believe that the standards improved dialogue with principals about teaching. Other aspects of the new evaluation system inspired mixed reactions.
- Administrators also reported positive perceptions of the competency model and evaluation system overall. They also believed that the evaluation dialogue improved under the new system. They felt that the evidence collected and explicit rubrics supported them as evaluators. The increased amount of time required to conduct the new evaluation procedures were viewed less favorably, and some administrators sought to decrease late nights and work on weekends by reducing the number and length of observations, providing more general feedback to teachers, or focusing their time on new or struggling teachers.
- Teachers reported positive impacts on their instructional practice due to the new evaluation system, but evidence collected by evaluators suggested broad, but shallow, effects on teaching practice. Common impacts on teaching included engaging in more reflection, improved lesson planning, and better classroom management rather than more ambitious instructional practices. Feedback and assistance received from administrators also focused on classroom management and general pedagogy. Many teachers also increased their attention to student standards because of their own evaluations.
- The three sites that conducted pilot tests of the new system took advantage of the opportunity to build support and address issues that may have caused implementation problems. However, challenges such as resistance from the teacher association and difficulties with the complexity of the performance evaluation process persisted. Implementation problems undermined the validity and fairness of the new system in the eyes of teachers.
- Teacher training by principals tended to be inconsistent and process oriented, rather than developing an understanding of the performance standards. Evaluator training also varied in quality. Administrator training offered insufficient guidance on providing useable feedback to teachers, setting performance goals, and coaching.
- Other implementation challenges involved lack of alignment between human resource systems, key district personnel who remained resistant or disengaged, and low accountability for administrators to conduct timely evaluations and provide constructive feedback to teachers.
The instructional practices measured by the standards-based teacher evaluations contribute to student learning. Mixed reactions to certain aspects of the new evaluation system, however, suggested that its design and implementation affect its acceptability to teachers and administrators. The authors offer the following guidelines for designing and implementing a standards-based teacher evaluation system to maximize its success:
- Emphasize that teacher performance is a factor of strategic importance to closing student achievement gaps;
- Develop a set of teaching standards and scoring rubrics that reflects the knowledge and skills that teachers need to provide effective instruction;
- Prepare for the additional work required of teachers being evaluated and those conducting evaluations by offering release time, using peer evaluators, and giving incentives for administrators to prioritize teacher evaluation and feedback;
- Provide early and on-going training for teachers on the performance competencies, the purpose and process of the evaluation system, and the knowledge and skills needed within it;
- Train administrators to conduct accurate observations and provide useful feedback and coaching to teachers, as well as on the performance competency model and the purpose and process of the new evaluation system;
- Consider using multiple evaluators to decrease the burden of conducting observations;
- Provide evaluators with high-quality training using a structured scoring process;
- Support teachers in acquiring knowledge and skills to excel with concrete and specific feedback, professional development, and modeling aspects of a high performance;
- Align the human resources system with the performance competency model underlying the new standards-based teacher evaluation system to reinforce the importance of the model and promote a shared sense of high-quality instruction;
- Pilot the system to work out details and address potential problems; and
- Conduct interrater agreement and validity analyses.
The Framework for Teaching served as the basis for the competency model underlying the standards-based teacher evaluation system at all four sites reviewed in this article. Teacher evaluation scores were associated with student achievement growth, especially in districts that offered high-quality training to classroom observers. Teachers and administrators agreed that the competency models adapted from the FFT reflected good teaching and promoted more constructive dialogue about teaching. The authors suggest that the FFT may be supplemented by evaluating teachers’ skill in implementing specific instructional programs related to districts strategies to improve student achievement (i.e., Success for All or a specific curriculum) and by assessing pedagogical content knowledge.