Unintended Consequences of the Nation's Teacher Evaluation Binge

October 4, 2012

Many states have passed pieces of legislation aimed at changing teacher evaluation requirements and systems to make them more meaningful and reflective of the job that teachers are doing. After a drought of reforms for the past several decades, many lobbying groups and advocates are trying to get their foot in the door. This has the unintended consequence of creating policy with no regard to how it is going to be implemented, say Sara Mead, Andrew J. Rotherham and Rachael Brown of the American Enterprise Institute.

As states rush to implement these new evaluation systems, there are a few things that policymakers, advocates and educators must look into.

  • Flexibility versus control: Instead of controlling every step of implementation, policymakers should allow schools autonomy and the ability to innovate to allow a tailored approach to teacher evaluations.
  • Evaluation in an evolving system: hastily created requirements for evaluations could inhibit blended learning and innovative models, which makes it nearly impossible to attribute student learning to a particular teacher.
  • Furthermore, teacher evaluations should be used to dismiss underperforming teachers while simultaneously using it as feedback to improve teacher performance.

Legislatures need to strike a very delicate balance to ensure that student needs are met without being too stringent on educators. Some proposals set forth by Mead, Rotherham and Brown are aimed at identifying the tradeoffs and tensions in proposed teacher evaluation systems:

  • Be clear about the problems and intent to solve them.
  • Look at the entire education ecosystem, including the broader labor market, standards and assessments, charter schools, and growth of early childhood education.
  • Focus on improvement, not deselection.
  • Encourage innovation.

Source: Sara Mead, Andrew J. Rotherham and Rachael Brown, "The Hangover: Thinking about the Unintended Consequences of the Nation's Teacher Evaluation Binge," American Enterprise Institute, September 26, 2012.

 

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