Session 3C / Session 5C
Using Research and Local Expertise to Improve Teacher Evaluation Systems
Corinne Herlihy, Harvard University
Rachel Hitch, Harvard University
Laura Booker, Tennessee Department of Education

Changes in teacher evaluation systems in recent years have not led to the significant improvements in the quality of teaching, while the implementation of these systems have created new challenges for school leaders and teachers. Research and field experience with teacher evaluation systems provide insight into important aspects of this problem.

In this workshop we will explore possible causes, and potential solutions, for two major challenges in teacher evaluation systems:

(1) The hope that new teacher evaluation systems would improve the quality of teaching has proven difficult to realize. The lack of alignment with other large initiatives, including the Common Core Standards and new student tests, and uniform approaches within systems, has limited the opportunities for constructive feedback and teacher learning through the evaluation process. Many districts require all teachers to be evaluated every year and in the same way regardless of their current “effectiveness” status. This approach has frustrated principals who bear the primary responsibility for both conducting teacher evaluation and raising the quality of teaching in their schools.

(2) New teacher evaluation systems were intended to better differentiate teachers for job-related decisions, but there is little evidence that either such distinctions have been made, or when present, that districts have acted on the information generated. While most states tasked districts with basing evaluations on valid and reliable measures of effectiveness, in only a few cases has evidence been produced that meets both criteria. When appropriate instruments are chosen and training provided, there is still little incentive and oversight to support principals in making use of the full range of scores.

In this workshop, we will examine teacher evaluation 2.0. We will use case studies of school districts that have been addressing these challenges. We will draw on the expertise and experience of the practitioners and researchers in the workshop to grapple with these systems using the lens of contemporary research and practice. The first half of workshop will review the most current, relevant and rigorous research on teacher effectiveness and teacher evaluation systems, including commentary from practitioners invited as respondents. The second half of the workshop will be highly interactive. Participants will work through cases, taking on the perspectives of key stakeholders: teachers, principals, district curriculum & instruction staff, human resources personnel, and union leaders. In small groups, participants will identify potential obstacles to implementation, focus on specific areas for improvement, draft recommendations for changes, and reflect on how their conclusions may apply to their own, as well as other, settings. The entire workshop will come together for subgroup report-outs and final commentary by workshop leaders.

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