My last two blog posts have discussed the importance of design and implementation practices that ensure educator evaluation systems are fair and produce meaningful results. But unless we connect those results to the day-to-day decision making of schools and districts, these efforts will be moot.
Evaluation results should be incorporated into all decisions related to staffing. But it also is critical to have a clear focus on helping teachers improve and to ensure that the students furthest behind are taught by teachers most able to help them catch up.
The whole point of evaluation systems is to help teachers get better at what they do. To achieve this goal, districts and the state must provide teachers with the high-quality tools and resources they need to act on the specific evaluation feedback they receive.
Districts and schools should also use the results of more rigorous evaluation systems to help identify their strongest teachers. Once they do, they must endeavor to keep these teachers in the classroom. Currently, too many of our strongest teachers leave struggling schools, or leave the teaching profession altogether, because they don’t feel appreciated or recognized by anyone other than their students. Most of today’s school systems treat all teachers similarly, regardless of how effective they are in growing student learning. Comprehensive evaluations based on multiple measures provide district and school leaders with important information that they can use to strategically retain and thoughtfully assign their best teachers.
That means ensuring that the schools and students who most need strong teachers are getting them. Unfortunately, low-income students and students of color are more likely to be assigned to weak teachers than are other children. Parents and advocates should push for policies that encourage more of our top teachers to work in high-need schools, where research shows they can have a huge impact. Focusing on policies that ensure strong instructional leaders and structured opportunities for teacher collaboration will help create the conditions in high-need schools that attract and retain strong teachers. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools in North Carolina is an example of one district that has worked to even the teaching playing field for the students who traditionally have been shortchanged. Charlotte prioritized staffing efforts for its highest-need schools by putting strong school leadership in place and offering increased compensation on these campuses to help make them the kind of places where their strongest teachers wanted to work.
I’ve appreciated this opportunity to share ideas and recommendations for educator evaluation system development, implementation and use with the Chalkboard community. As Oregon develops and implements its own new system, I hope parents and advocates will encourage local and state leaders to do right by kids, making sure the new system is well-designed, well-implemented and—above all—used thoughtfully to improve instruction for all students.
Melissa Tooley is a teacher quality and data analyst at The Education Trust. Melissa’s work at the Ed Trust focuses on evaluating and influencing policy to ensure that all students receive the effective teachers they need and deserve. This is part one in a series of blog posts discussing educator evaluations.