What Will Happen to Teacher Evaluation

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act?

The impossibly high aim of the No Child Left Behind Act, all students proficient by 2014, paved the way for an era of extraordinary leverage for the U.S. Department of Education. During the Obama administration, states were granted flexibility from the law’s original proficiency goals, but only if they agreed to adopt policies – including teacher evaluation – that replaced test-based accountability with measures designed to improve outcomes from the inside out.

Waiver era teacher evaluation systems measured performance based upon both observation of teacher practice and measured student outcomes and differentiated performance into at least three categories. Some states required consequences for educators who fell into the bottom categories. Others scripted statewide evaluation systems that set the tone of evaluation in every school district. Regardless of the approach, states, districts, schools, principals and teachers struggled with the shifts.

By Sarah Silverman, Ph.D.

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The key to professional learning is to connect it with teachers’ demonstrated needs – which means connecting it with data collected from observation and student outcomes.

This is the key. However, it often requires re-thinking professional learning design. A worthwhile but often challenging task, unless undertaken in small steps.

I concur about starting with desired student outcomes and working backwards and that re-thinking professional learning can be challenging, and even daunting. It may be useful to recognize that re-designing professional learning doesn’t need to have a sense of permanence about it. In fact, slowly iterating can be a powerful approach.

One thing is certain: Teachers’ and principals’ opinions will be a primary factor.

I hope that this will be true. While states will likely engage educators, I'm not sure that they have to show evidence that it has been applied. That said, if we did a better job of soliciting and incorporating educator input on teacher evaluation six or seven years ago, perhaps the pendulum would not have swung so far in one direction, from which we are now recovering.