Thursday, June 02, 2011


EdSource logoEdSource Press Release |

For Immediate Release

Contact: 650/917-9481 or

    June 2, 2011 - In recent months, one education debate that has consistently grabbed the headlines is how teachers should be evaluated, often with a sharp focus on the use of student test scores to make high-stakes employment decisions.

    A new EdSource report, Envisioning New Directions in Teacher Evaluation, provides a less sensational but more optimistic view regarding this critical issue. The report finds that despite the sometimes heated rhetoric, teacher groups, administrators, and researchers in California agree that, in most school districts, teacher evaluation systems are inadequate. They also are in relative accord on changes that could make teacher evaluations more effective and ultimately support the strengthening of instruction in California's public schools.

    The criticisms of most teacher evaluation systems in California school districts revolve around several perceived shortcomings. Those include the following:

    • Teachers, especially experienced ones, do not receive feedback on their practice frequently enough.

    • The administrators doing the evaluations often do not have the time or background needed for the task. 

    • Evaluators seldom review a teacher's impact on student learning.

    • Nearly all teachers get the same satisfactory rating regardless of their skills.

    • The evaluations that do occur are often not helpful for teachers' practice and seldom carry meaningful consequences.

      In turn, the recommendations for change are broadly similar among stakeholder groups. One is to provide more frequent feedback through low-stakes, formative assessments of a teacher's work. That would be accompanied by periodic appraisals to determine whether a teacher may continue in the classroom. The latter should result in the dismissal of teachers who are found to be ineffective, but only after those struggling teachers receive additional support and time to improve.

      These various groups also agree that evaluations should contain evidence of student learning, measured in multiple ways. The question of whether student scores on standardized tests should be among those measures, and to what extent, is an area where opinions clearly diverge, in part based on cautions raised by testing experts.

      Ultimately, the EdSource report finds, "All agree that the primary goal of evaluations should be to affirm what teachers are doing well and help them continually improve."

      The report also teases out the complex relationship between state policy and local practice as it relates to teacher evaluations. EdSource concludes that current law in California is largely supportive of the principles underlying good evaluation practice but local school districts, with some notable exceptions, have for the most part not developed and implemented effective evaluation systems. Poway Unified School District, near San Diego, is an example of an innovator in this area, and many other districts and charter schools throughout the state are beginning to redesign their evaluation systems.

      EdSource suggests that "state policymakers could best help improve districts' evaluation systems by focusing on ways to enforce current law" through such processes as audits and periodic monitoring.

      The report is available free from the EdSource website:

      How state laws and collective bargaining shape the way teachers are evaluated, paid, and dismissed in California

      This related 2-page policy guide highlights some of the important laws that currently exist in California related to teacher evaluation issues. For example, while California law requires that districts set academic standards and evaluate teachers based upon them, the implementation, enforcement, and monitoring of these laws are generally left up to the districts and teacher unions.   

      The report is available free from the EdSource website:

      EdSource is an independent not-for-profit research organization dedicated to clarifying complex education issues.

      No comments: