Education Opinion

Can Teachers Define Teacher Effectiveness in Policy?

By Patrick Ledesma — March 14, 2011 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

How can we measure teacher effectiveness?

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) recently released their report, Student Learning, Student Achievement: How Do Teachers Measure Up? to discuss effective methods of using student learning as a measure of teacher effectiveness.

The full report is available on the NBPTS website with this following description:

Few education issues are raising more questions and greater interest than that of how the nation should fairly and accurately evaluate teachers and assess their influence on student performance. And few issues are more important. To help better understand how teachers are assessed in this new era of school improvement, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards convened a task force of leaders in education evaluation, research, and policy to debate and share their collective knowledge about teacher evaluation.
The resulting report, Student Learning, Student Achievement: How Do Teachers Measure Up?, outlines effective methods of using student learning as a measure of teacher effectiveness. The full report and the executive summary provides principles for selecting and using large-scale assessments to evaluate teacher practice.
Additionally, (the report) offers recommendations about how the National Board Certification process can be used more effectively to measure accomplished teachers' contributions to student learning and how those lessons can be shared with the field.
The report provides guidance to educators and policymakers about appropriate ways to ground teacher evaluation in student learning.

The report concludes with the following recommendations to guide use of assessments of student learning as a measure of teacher effectiveness:

    Be aligned with the curriculum and student learning goals a specific teacher is expected to teach.

    Be constructed to evaluate student learning.

    Be sensitive to the diversity of students.

    Capture learning validly and reliably at the student's actual achievement level.

    Provide evidence about student performance and teacher practice that reflects the full breadth of subject -matter knowledge and skills that are valued.

This 55 page report is an excellent read.

First, this report was written by a diverse and distinguished panel. In today’s polarized education dialogue, it is refreshing to read a collaborative and constructive report from a panel with members with traditionally differing views and opinions.

Second, the report provides an alternate vision for how teacher evaluations should be structured that goes deeper than test scores. This is also important since most teachers do not teach in grade levels or subjects that are routinely tested.

Third, and most importantly, teachers now have a report that articulates our concerns and hopes for a better evaluation system. It’s our evaluation process and we need to define what we want and in a way that benefits students and values the profession.

How should teachers use this report?

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to discuss this report with Joseph Aguerrebere, President and CEO of NBPTS, Bob Wise, former Governor of West Virginia and President of Alliance for Excellent Education, and Joan Auchter, NBPTS Chief Program Office, at a webinar last Thursday, March 10.

Below is what I said my opening response during the webinar. I look forward to how this report will be used to engage the public to develop better and more meaningful teacher evaluations.

Teacher evaluations have to be fair, accurate, and relevant to our students and communities. We are concerned with the current direction of proposals for teacher evaluation.

This report helps us engage the public so we can improve teacher evaluation. We can expand the dialogue on three points.

First, the public needs to understand that teacher evaluation should be based on student learning, not student achievement.

We need to help the public understand that relying on student achievement data based on standardized tests give limited information, when compared to what students actually do and learn in classrooms.

Many teachers are not in subjects or grade levels that are tested.

We need a new focus. We need to shift the dialogue to student learning- the growth in knowledge and skills over time. The public needs to understand that it is the quality of student learning that is relevant to defining and assessing effective teaching.

This report empowers us in these conversations.

Second, we have to redefine the process and purpose of teacher evaluation.

Standardized assessments may have a role in teacher evaluation.

But we need to educate the public on the criteria that must be met if we use these assessments. This report highlights the importance of curriculum related scales, test validity for special populations, better data systems, and alignment.

The public must demand that assessments meet these criteria.

More importantly, our current dialogue on teacher evaluation is polarized on how we may use test scores to punish teachers.

We need to change the purpose of teacher evaluation. The report highlights that the hallmark of accomplished teaching is student learning. Therefore, we should focus on supporting the effective teaching that will impact all students, not just those in classrooms being tested.

The purpose of teacher evaluation should be to help all teachers get better.
It has to be an investment in us as professionals.

Third, the development of teacher evaluation must include teacher expertise and leadership.

Teacher leadership can fill the gaps between policy and practice. For example, this report highlights the importance of special populations. Accomplished teachers, who work with these students each day, can be the experts to inform policy makers. This report highlights curriculum alignment: Teachers who are the content and learning experts can guide this development. This report highlights the connection between teacher practice and student learning. Teachers who use best practices, formative, and summative assessments can guide how we understand this connection.

So we have a framework for dialogue to engage policy makers.

We need to collaborate with governance from district, state, to national levels, We need to build cooperation between teachers, professional organizations, universities, and business.

Most importantly, we will need to work with administrators at the school level to ensure that the teacher evaluation system we design is implemented with integrity.

As the report states, our task is “challenging, but not insurmountable.”

We have the expertise and experience. Let’s have these conversations.

And that was my start for my part during the webinar.... Can we as teachers define teacher effectiveness? We have this insightful document as a framework. What will be the next step?

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.