Recent State Action on Teacher Effectiveness: What's in State Laws and Regulations?

The flurry of legislative activity shot forth from federal teacher effectiveness incentives has made it difficult to keep up with state reform policies. Since 2010, states have built on existing policies, tossed out poor ones, and created others to address areas needing improvement. In Ohio, House Bill 153 (2011 biennial budget bill) made significant changes to teacher evaluations (see detailed coverage here). To track these changes, DC-based Bellwether Education Partners examines policies in 21 states that took major legislative action in teacher effectiveness in this report.

The Bellwether report focuses on regulations that link teacher evaluations to significant personnel decisions. Bellwether gives each state’s policies an “Effectiveness Rating” based on 13 criteria that address areas like evaluation frequency, inclusion of student performance, compensation as teacher reward, and tenure. States can receive up to one point in each area, for a possible total of thirteen. Bellwether awards states with points if their policies address critical areas of teacher evaluation to foster a “more performance-oriented culture.”

Among the top rated state policies are Louisiana (10 points), Florida (9.75), and Indiana (11.75). Forty percent of states received less than half the possible score (less than 6.5). Ohio received a 5.5 rating, indicating that its state policies are not particularly suited to creating a performance-based teacher workforce. However, be careful when drawing conclusions. The report does not examine how well these policies are implemented. As the author suggests, low scores are not an indication of worse policies, but expose areas that could be improved to make a more thorough policy. For example, Ohio gained points for having both principals and teachers evaluated on a four-level system, but lost points for denying principals ability to select teachers for their schools. Being thorough is important, but will it transform into success? Readers should keep in mind that affecting evaluation does not always translate to improving teacher performance.

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