A new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality has offered a closer look at teacher evaluation policies in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The report, "State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning," not only looks into policies on teacher evaluations, but also examines the effectiveness of principals and efforts made by states to use these results to make decisions pertaining to consequences for teachers.
According to the report, 35 states were found to require student achievement to be a significant factor in teacher evaluation. There were only five states as of 2015 — California, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and Vermont — found to still not have any form of formal policy in place that require teacher evaluations to be tied to student achievement measures. Twenty-nine of the 35 states require that teachers given a poor rating are issued an improvement plan.
In addition, Delaware, Florida and Louisiana were found to have the toughest policies in place with regard to linking teacher evaluations to consequences.
Only seven states — Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada and Utah — link teacher compensation to results found from evaluations.
The report's authors went on to say that although new performance-based teacher evaluations are in place across the country, the percentage of teachers given at least a satisfactory rating continues to remain unusually high. While the old evaluation systems found 99% of teachers to be given a high rating regardless of student achievement, new rating systems have not changed that picture much.
As of 2015, 22 states require or allow the use of student learning objectives (SLO) as a measure of student growth for teacher evaluations. However, only 9 of those states also require that those SLOs are reviewed and approved.
The NCTQ suggests a number of recommendations to help improve upon teacher evaluation systems, including the alignment of teacher and principal evaluations. The group found that principal evaluations are often created as an afterthought in the creation of the evaluation system process.
The group also said that teacher evaluations should focus on the positive. While many states focus on teacher evaluations being used to punish teachers, NCTQ instead suggests that when used correctly, evaluations could be used to help raise the profession and improve upon the skills of all teachers.
The report also suggests that incentives are used to change teacher quality rather than punishments. "The field has achieved much more by providing resources to states willing, able and ready to engage in teacher effectiveness reforms than by twisting the arms of unwilling states to adopt effectiveness policies," the report states.