States move quickly to change teacher evaluations: 33 and counting

How fast are states moving to change their teacher evaluation policies in the wake of a major, years-long reform push by the Obama administration and others?

Very fast, according to a report released today by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

The NCTQ, an advocacy group that applauds most of these changes, counted 33 states that have tweaked–if not overhauled–their teacher evaluation policies since 2009, when the Obama administration’s education reform grant competition, Race to the Top, was announced. The changes have ranged from new laws that permit a teacher to be fired based on student test scores to requirements that teachers be evaluated at least once a year. The NCTQ found that 24 states now include test scores in teacher evaluations, and 18 have evaluations “significantly” informed by student achievement.

Race to the Top prize money has driven some states to revamp classroom observations of teachers and design systems to rate teachers using student achievement data. But others are rewriting their policies in the absence of such financial incentives.

“I don’t think we’re going to get to 50 too quickly,” report author Sandi Jacobs said yesterday in a conference call with reporters hosted by the Education Writers Association. “But I do think we’re going to continue to see these numbers go up.”

While more states, including some Race to the Top winners, have promised to make changes to how teachers are rated, the report doesn’t count those that have yet to pass statewide laws or take other concrete actions.

Yesterday, The Hechinger Report published a story in collaboration with the American Prospect looking at how these changes are translating into millions of dollars in contracts for private companies and nonprofits.

But how will these new policies change what happens in classrooms? Will they lead to improved student achievement?

The response on the conference call yesterday was, essentially, we don’t know yet. Jane Hannaway, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research (which has won contracts to design value-added teacher evaluation systems in Florida and New York, and which is among the supporters of The Hechinger Report) said she is confident that the new systems will be better than what they’re replacing.

“The huge variation in teachers is something that’s just indisputable right now,” she said. “A big leap has been made.”

POSTED BY ON October 26, 2011