While most people have decided school teachers need to be evaluated, not all have considered the various uses for teacher evaluations. Eric S. Taylor of Stanford University and John H. Tyler of Brown University do just that in their research study, which directly assesses how mid-career teacher evaluations can assist in professional development.

The authors explore whether teacher evaluations can be used as more than a sorting mechanism that weeds out “good” from “bad” teachers. They do this by measuring fourth through eighth grade teacher’s impact on math scores. An individual teacher’s students are examined during the year of the evaluation. Those same students’ scores are also examined before and after having that teacher, to get a better picture of the instructor’s impact.

Results indicate that schools can use well-designed evaluations to improve teacher performance. Teachers who went through evaluations developed skills and changed behaviors that benefitted students a year after leaving that teacher’s classroom. To see these gains, however, the evaluation must be a constructive “practiced-based assessment that relies on multiple, highly structured classroom observations.”

Cincinnati Public Schools uses the constructive evaluation described above for its Teacher Evaluation System, which is expected to cost between $1.8 and $2.1 million per year. While financially costly, teacher evaluation systems may be able to help our lower performing professionals improve in ways that last.

SOURCE: Eric S. Taylor and John H. Tyler, “Can Teacher Evaluation Improve Teaching,” Education Next 12, no. 4 (2012).

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