Stimulus Strings: Local Teacher-Evaluation Reporting

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 01, 2009 1 min read

The stimulus guidance is up, and it contains what to me seems like a real jaw-dropper on the teacher-quality front. To receive their second cut of state stabilization funds, states will need to show they are capable of reporting the number and percentage of teachers and principals rated at each performance level under each local district’s teacher-evaluation system. The federal government has, in the past, been very hands-off of teacher evaluation.

I can see this being a real challenge on a number of fronts. First off, I’m not even sure how many districts keep computerized records of the results of these evaluations. It probably varies, but right now, evaluation is pretty much a personnel thing.

Secondly, as EdSector’s Tom Toch has noted, teacher-evaluation instruments in most districts are exceptionally poor. Many do a terrible job of distinguishing different levels of performance. Many are not correlated to any definition of good teaching.

We also know that administrators have been reluctant to give teachers poor ratings on their evaluation systems (see this post on San Francisco, for instance). It probably won’t pass the laugh test if districts report that 100 percent of their teachers are deemed to “exceed expectations,” or whatever the top rating is, when they’ve got schools that aren’t passing testing thresholds.

So what this could do is spur some hard conversations on what teacher evaluations should look like.

It’ll be interesting to see what the teachers’ unions have to say about this. They’ve historically been wary of evaluations that use student-performance information, and the federal requirements also require states to note which districts’ systems include student-achievement outcomes.

I’ve got calls out to Toch and the teachers’ unions, Let’s see what they have to say.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.