Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher Evaluation Systems

In state capitals across the nation, policy makers and
education reformers are calling for more rigorous teacher evaluation systems.  In its latest report, Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher
Evaluation Systems
, the Brookings Institution describes a mathematical
framework for assessing the effectiveness of evaluation systems. The report
accompanies and explains the reasoning behind an evaluation system
effectiveness calculator
developed by the Institution. The calculator assesses teacher evaluation
systems that use student value-added data, based on five criteria:

  • Differentiation.
    The evaluation system should rate teachers so that a meaningful spectrum of
    teacher effectiveness can be observed (e.g. 99% of teachers rated effective is
    not acceptable).
  • Correlation.
    Differentiation should be based on teacher characteristics that are likely to
    significantly influence student achievement.
  • Consistency.
    Evaluations provided by the system should be predictable from year to year: A
    teacher rated “highly effective” in one year should receive a similar rating in
    future years.
  • Diverse
    The evaluation system should not use value-added data alone,
    but should also use classroom observations and/or other methods to produce a
    more complete picture of a teacher’s effectiveness.
  • Universality.
    Because of diverse methodologies, all teachers, even those for whom no value-added
    data is available, should be able to be evaluated by the system.

Many states and districts do not favor a universal teacher
evaluation system and would prefer to develop their own systems instead. The
report proposes that this calculator be used to set standards for such
localized systems, thereby creating a national standard by which to judge
teacher evaluation systems but not mandating a national system. The report
suggests that this might be accomplished by including the calculator or a
similar tool in a reauthorization of ESEA.

The Passing Muster
model may prove problematic in some ways, as some critics contend,
but the report raises important issues regarding the creation and
implementation of effective teacher evaluation systems. In Ohio, recent
amendments to HB 153 (Governor Kasich’s budget bill) would require
districts to use student value-added data as at least 50 percent of teacher
evaluations and to lay off teachers in order of evaluation rating, not
seniority. These reforms are certainly a much-needed
improvement, but implementation will be the deciding factor in whether or not
the new evaluation systems will actually be effective.

Passing Muster: Evaluating Teacher
Evaluation Systems

Steven Glazerman, et
Brookings Institution
April 2011