Teacher evaluations are supposed to help teachers grow as professionals.
But evaluations are often ineffective at encouraging teacher development, and most within the education system have noticed. Teacher Paul Murphy describes typical teacher evaluations as “arbitrary, based on questionable data, and demoralizing to the profession.” After some frustrating evaluations, educator Laina Porter has concluded that the evaluation system is not designed to benefit the teacher, as it should be.
Insightful feedback has been identified as a crucial driver for professional growth, say researchers Sandra Park, Sola Takahashi, and Taylor White at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Without meaningful data and constructive feedback, teachers are missing out on the opportunity for growth and improvement. This is why it is so important that school districts design teacher evaluation forms to collect useful data.
So, what does a well-designed evaluation form look like? For starters, it’s not as complex as you might think. Below are suggestions for how to design data-rich teacher evaluation forms that actually meet their intended purpose.
Use multiple measures for performance assessment
Evaluation forms must include a variety of data points to accurately assess a teacher’s performance.
Laura Goe, Ph.D., a research scientist at Educational Testing Service, explains that using multiple measures strengthens teacher assessments by
- Providing a more complete picture of the teacher’s effect on student learning
- Increasing confidence in the results of the evaluation
- Increasing the information available for collaboration on student success
She also notes that evaluations with multiple measures contribute to teacher growth by allowing teachers to see what teaching methods work in their colleagues’ classrooms. The evaluations also provide teachers with greater insights into how their teaching methods are helping their students learn.
The National Education Association recommends a variety of measures, aside from students’ standardized test scores, that can be used in teacher evaluations. Some of these measures include
- Student subject matter assessments and presentations to show growth
- Teacher portfolios that demonstrate the attainment and use of new skills
- Information provided through various feedback methods, such as peer reviews and professional learning communities
While using multiple measures does provide a more holistic observation of teacher performance, The New Teacher Project warns that not all measures should be treated equally. Each measure needs to be weighted based on its reliability and accuracy as an assessment tool.
Include teacher self-assessments
A great way to add more meaning to teacher evaluation forms is to include space for teacher self-assessments.
These self-assessments can provide insightful data about a teacher’s perspective on their performance and make them feel more engaged in the process. In a paper for American Institutes for Research, Doug Fireside and Lisa Lachlan-Haché, Ed.D., write that self-evaluation allows teachers to
- Assess their teaching skills honestly
- Set goals for professional learning
- Measure their performance against objective indicators
- Gather and reflect upon evidence of their performance
- Draw conclusions about their impact on their students and the school
A teacher’s reflective answers give the school’s administrators insights that can help identify gaps in professional knowledge and areas for teacher growth and development, Fireside and Lachlan-Hache note.
Ensure the rating system allows for apples-to-apples comparisons
Teacher evaluations need to provide clear feedback, which is why it is important to use a rating system that offers a clear definition of good teaching. After all, teacher quality cannot be assessed if it isn’t defined, notes former teacher and educational consultant Charlotte Danielson.
That’s why a performance rating system with multiple levels (e.g., “poor,” “adequate,” “good,” “excellent”) is so helpful. The New Teacher Project suggests scales with at least four or five different ratings — two levels at or above expectations and two levels below expectations.
Evaluating teachers according to such a rubric lets you compare teachers and track a teacher’s performance across multiple evaluations; this type of rating system also leaves no room for ambiguity. It will be immediately clear how and why a teacher’s performance moved up or down on the scale.
Use software to streamline evaluations
The paperwork involved in traditional teacher performance evaluations can be inefficient and overwhelming, which is why an increasing number of school districts are implementing software for teacher assessments, notes Todd Whitlock, a teacher, administrator, and CEO at Standard For Success.
Whitlock explains that technology enables districts to maintain feedback and observations online, making it easy for teachers and evaluators to access the data and information from the evaluations.
The Reform Support Network discusses how web-based platforms make evaluation forms available on mobile devices. Evaluators can visit a classroom, perform the observation, make notes, record scores, and immediately upload them. They are then available for everyone involved to review.
Through the use of technology, evaluators can more efficiently and consistently gather and analyze meaningful teacher-assessment data.
An effective teacher evaluation measures what is most valuable to both teachers and school systems. Developing evaluation forms that are designed to collect pertinent data, and that actually help teachers grow and improve, should be a priority. Measures should not be arbitrary but well-constructed data points that are relevant to assessing teachers and that provide high-quality feedback for improvement.