What the research shows about teacher evaluation systems

Teacher Effectiveness

Education Next, Summer 2011

This article reports results from
the ongoing study of the Cincinnati Teacher Evaluation System, namely that
evaluations based on well-executed classroom observations do identify
effective teachers. Further, scores on the classroom observation component of
Cincinnati’s evaluation system accurately predicted the achievement gains made
by their students in reading and math.

Widget Effect

The New Teacher Project, 2009

This highly influential study highlights
the long-time failure among school districts to recognize and respond to the
effectiveness of teachers. The Widget Effect describes the tendency of
districts to assume classroom effectiveness is the same from teacher to
teacher  The study surveyed over 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators
from four different states and 12 districts to determine the differences that
exist in measuring teacher effectiveness. The report found that the "widget effect" is characterized by the following:

  • All teachers are rated good or great,
  • Excellence goes unrewarded,
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed, and
  • Professional development systems are inadequate
    to the challenge.

 A Smarter
Teacher Layoff System

The New Teacher Project, March 2011

The New Teacher Project shows the need for high quality
evaluation systems in order to lay off teachers in a manner that is fairer and
more equitable to students.  Diminishing budgets have forced many
districts to lay off teachers in an attempt to save money. While layoffs alone
are bad news, they become even more harmful when they are based on antiquated
measures such as “last in, first out.” This policy brief looks at the harm that
these quality blind layoffs can have, and what needs to be done to protect the
jobs of the best teachers.

Student Performance Measures into Teacher Evaluation Systems

Rand Corporation, 2010

The authors of this report
recognize the urgent need to incorporate student performance measurements into
teacher evaluation systems. They argue that policy makers should take into
consideration certain factor when designing teacher evaluation systems. These
considerations include reliability (the extent to which student measurements
are consistent), and validity (the extent to which the interpretations of
student scores are justified by the evidence). To discuss and illustrate how
some states and districts are taking these considerations into account the
report highlights five jurisdictions: Denver, Colorado; Hillsborough County,
Florida; the state of Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and the state of Delaware.

The Effect
of Evaluation on Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Student Achievement
Data of Mid-career Teachers
NBER, March 2011

Can teacher evaluations actually improve teacher
performance? Using eight years of data from the Cincinnati’s
Teacher Evaluation System (TES), NBER found that a teacher’s performance in
math improved. A teacher’s performance in math improved both during the
evaluation period and afterwards. For example, a teacher whose pupils had
typically scored in the 50th percentile on math tests before being evaluated
saw results in the 55th percentile range in the years after their initial

Bianca Speranza
Bianca Speranza is a Policy & Research Associate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute