Building a Better Evaluation System: Tools to Evaluate Teachers

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Building a better evaluation system: Tools to evaluate teachers

Although classroom observations are by far the most common form of teacher evaluation, there are several other methods that can be used to evaluation the quality of teachers. All can provide important information about teacher quality, but each has its own strengths and limitations. It’s important to understand the strengths and limitations of each in order to use these tools to provide a comprehensive evaluation of a teacher’s true performance. A National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality (2008) report provided the following strengths and limitations of each of the teacher evaluation tools (Mathers, Oliva and Laine 2008): Classroom Observation

Strengths
* Captures information about teachers’ instructional practices. * Can be used as a diagnostic or for final personnel decisions. * Can track a teacher’s growth and suggest needed professional development. Limitations

* Biased results from poorly trained observers and inconsistent, brief observations. * When conducted more frequently, their reliability improves. * When observations are longer, their validity improves. Lesson Plans Reviews

Lesson plans help examine how a teacher prepares to deliver content, develop student skills, and manage the classroom learning environment. Lesson plans are typically evaluated using a rubric. Few districts use lesson plans as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Strengths

* Student learning is correlated with a teacher’s level of planning used to drive instruction. * More likely to be positively related to improved student outcomes when the plans are able to (Stronge 2007): * Link student learning objectives with teaching activities. * Describe teaching practices to maintain students’ attention. * Align student objectives with district and state standards. * Accommodate students with special needs.

Limitations
* A lesson a plan is just a plan. Once implemented, t he plan may need to be adjusted * The quality and appropriateness of the adjustments of the plan in the classroom cannot be evaluated solely from the lesson-plan scoring rubric. * Stronger if combined with classroom observations.

Self-Assessments
Reflection is a process in which teachers analyze their own instruction retrospectively through profession conversations (Uhlenbeck, Verloop and Beijaard 2002), pre-observation and post-observation debriefings, the development of a portfolio, or an individual professional development plan. Strengths

* May encourage teachers to continue to learn and grow throughout their careers (Uhlenbeck, Verloop and Beijaard 2002). * Videotaping class sessions allow teachers to review their performance so that they reflect and engage in in-depth conversations with their evaluators about the behaviors and practices observed. Limitations

* Requires both time and a culture norm that supports this type of practice. * Making the time for teachers to engage in reflection may be low priority for administrators (Peterson and Comeaux 1990, Schon 1983). Portfolio Assessments

Portfolio assessments tend to include several pieces of evidence of teacher classroom performance, including lesson plans, video of classroom teaching, self analysis, examples of student work and examples of teacher feedback given to students (Andrejko 1998). Portfolios are required in some states and districts but are not as common as classroom observation. Strengths

* Allow evaluators to identify teachers’ instructional strengths and weaknesses and encourage ongoing professional development (Attinello, Lare and Waters 2006, Tucker, Stronge and Gareis 2002). * Allow evaluators to review nonclassroom aspects of instruction. * Provide teachers with opportunities to reflect on their teaching by reviewing documents contained in the portfolio. * Promotes the active participation of teachers in the evaluation process...
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