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Education Opinion

How Do State Teacher Evaluation Laws Stack Up?

By Sara Mead — August 22, 2012 3 min read

Over the past 3 years, more than 20 states have passed laws to change the way teachers are evaluated and link these evaluations to key personnel decisions--including layoffs, assignment, compensation, and dismissal. Over the past few months, I’ve been combing through these laws and related regulations to produce this new Bellwether Education Partners report analyzing recent state legislation and explaining what the new laws do and do not do. This report, which looks not only at evaluation provisions but how states are linking them to personnel decisions, is the first comprehensive review of all recently passed state teacher effectiveness laws.

Specifically, I reviewed whether and how recent state legislation addressed 13 critical issues related to teacher effectiveness:


  • Are all teacher evaluated annually?: 14 of the 21 states require all teachers to be evaluated annually
  • Are principals, as well as teachers, evaluated?: 20 of 21 states include principals in the evaluation system.
  • Is evidence of student learning a factor in educator evaluations? All 21 states reviewed require evidence of student learning to be a factor in teacher evaluations; of those, 14 require it to constitute at least 50% of a teacher’s evaluation or to be the preponderant criterion.
  • Do evaluations differentiate between multiple levels of educator effectiveness?: 18 states define at least 4 levels of performance.
  • Are parents and the public provided clear information about educator effectiveness?: Only 4 states explicitly require aggregated (non-individually identifiable) reporting on teacher effectiveness, although others have plans to do so. 4 states require districts to either share with parents the ratings of their child’s teachers, or notify parents if the child is assigned an ineffective teacher. 9 states explicitly prohibit disclosure of individual teacher evaluations, including to parents.
  • Are educator preparation programs accountable for graduates’ effectiveness?: Very few states hold teacher preparation programs accountable for the performance of their graduates on new evaluation systems; 5 require some combination of accountability and/or public reporting of program performance; 2 intend to incorporate evaluation data into the program approval and accountability process for teacher preparation programs, but have not yet done so. Several others have the capacity to link teacher evaluations back to their preparation programs, but have not yet done so.
  • Is tenure linked to effectiveness?: 12 states link tenure to effectiveness.
  • Can ineffective teachers be dismissed?: 16 states explicitly make ineffective evaluations grounds for dismissal.
  • Is teacher effectiveness, rather than seniority, the primary consideration in reductions in force?: 13 states ensure that reductions in force take into account performance, and are not just based on seniority.
  • In cases of teacher excessing, is there a process for teachers to secure new positions through mutual consent, and for those who cannot find a position to eventually be discharged from district employment?: Only 1 state, Colorado, creates a process for excessed teachers to find new placements through mutual consent and to discharge from employment those who fail to do so.
  • Do principals have the authority to decide who teaches in their schools?: 6 states prohibit teacher assignments without the principal’s consent.
  • Does the law protect students from being assigned to ineffective teachers for two or more consecutive years?: Only one state, Indiana, prohibits students from being consecutively assigned to ineffective teachers.
  • Are effective teachers rewarded with increased compensation?: 14 states create or require districts to create some form of performance-based teacher compensation.

There’s lots more in the report--Over the next few days, I’ll be writing more about some of the findings that I found particularly interesting.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook 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.