Teaching Profession

Lessons on Teacher Evaluation from TAP

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 21, 2011 2 min read
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Making teacher evaluation count not just for measuring effectiveness, but also for the ongoing improvement of teaching and learning means paying attention to many details beyond simply selecting the measures, a report by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching states.

They include carefully validating measures, supplying intensive, ongoing training to make sure observation ratings are consistent and not prone to “drift,” and giving teachers and principals time to debrief ratings and determine strategies to improve, concludes the report by NIET, which oversees the Teacher Advancement Program school-reform model.

There’s obviously a degree of self promotion in the report, but it also has implications far beyond TAP schools to the broader teacher-evaluation discussion so far.

Talk of teacher evaluation has been dominated by an increasingly screechy debate over whether or not to use “value-added” measures based on student test scores, rather than the issues NIET focuses on here: what other measures are available, how to put them together, and how to implement them in classrooms.

(If you’re new to TAP and need a primer, read this EdWeek story.)

Here are a few highlights in the report:

• Different but complementary measures provide more information than any one measure. TAP evaluations are based on both teaching practices observed by skills and student achievement. Both have been empirically verified. TAP data show that the two measures correlate with each other, so that increase on one measure is consistent with increase on the other.

• Leadership teams in schools using TAP have a good deal of training on how to use the TAP evaluation framework, including practice sessions and the scoring of videos, and they must be recertified annually. An additional database stores evaluation results so that evaluators can check to make sure that ratings are consistent on each area of the rubric and probe problem areas. Teachers also understand what it means to score at each level: In TAP, a 1-5 rating system, a “3" is solid performance and the bulk of teachers receive that score.

• Professional development is closely linked to the system and isn’t an afterthought; in a post-conference, an observer uses protocols in discussion with the teacher being evaluated to home in on areas of weaknesses and problem-solve.

• Districts and schools need to provide support to help maintain the system’s high quality, including ongoing monitoring, re-training, analysis to insure ‘inter-rater reliability,’ and so on.

Reading between the lines: Teacher evaluation, done well, is not cheap. If it’s truly to serve as the core of teaching and learning, policymakers better be prepared to pony up.

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