A recent report out of the Center for American Progress examines the state of teacher evaluation reform in six early adopter states, including Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
While many state education departments are struggling to fully support the new systems, others have seen some success and are en route to developing a means of supporting districts in teacher evaluation work.
The paper’s author, Patrick McGuinn, identified a number of challenges associated with implementing new teacher-evaluation systems based on the work of the early-adopter states.
Among them is the debate over the role of the state in education, which impacts how state education agencies approach teacher evaluation reform. Furthermore, states vary widely when it comes to the degree of centralization and standardization they require in the new teacher-evaluation systems.
McGuinn highlights the prevailing concern surrounding state education agencies’ ability to implement these reforms — particularly those states that did not win a Race to the Top grant or secure foundation support, which most states did not. According to the report, most states have been unable or unwilling to allocate new money to aid the implementation of these reforms, given the stifling economic climate. Thus, the inevitable drying up of federal and foundation grants is likely to affect states in different ways.
Another challenge is variation in evaluating the evaluators; one of the primary roles of state education agencies in assisting teacher-evaluation reform has been providing training to the administrators who will be conducting the new observations. States differ widely in their approach. Some state education agencies like Tennessee directly train all evaluators, while others such as Colorado and Pennsylvania have adopted a train-the-trainer model. Some states, including New Jersey, leave the training entirely up to districts.
Most state reform statues have established hasty timetables for the implementation of new teacher-evaluation systems — timetables all states are struggling to meet.
Still, arguably the biggest challenge posed by these mandated evaluation reforms is that the majority of teachers do not teach in tested subjects or grades, and as a result standardized student achievement data is not available to be used in their ratings.
In order to satisfy the demands of effective teacher-evaluation reform, McGuinn offers several recommendations. Among them is the need to define the role of state education agencies with regard to districts and schools. This will require said agencies to reallocate existing staff and budgets to focus on new responsibilities.
Furthermore, states must concentrate on providing what districts cannot, and education agencies should adjust their implementation timelines to align with the needs and resources of their particular state.
Lastly, states must think long term about how to provide administrators with the training, technical expertise and field experience needed to address the current human-capital challenges affiliated with teacher evaluation reform.