The two latest states to release teacher-evaluation results, Hawaii and Delaware, show the vast majority of teachers meeting standards.
If you’ve been reading Education Week‘s coverage of teacher-evaluation reform—for example, here and here, then this won’t come as a huge surprise. As in many other states, among them Michigan, Florida, and Indiana, only a small fraction of teachers are getting low ratings.
Hawaii’s breakdown, per the Star-Advertiser: 16 percent of teachers in 2013-14 were deemed highly effective and 81.7 percent were effective. Just 2.1 percent needed improvement and only 0.2 percent were ineffective.
Delware’s teachers scored even better: Just under half of teachers got the top rating, and 51 percent got an effective rating. One percent needed improvement and not a single teacher was considered ineffective.
About 40 states have put in new evaluation systems to replace previous ones that had been largely pro forma.
There are two major reactions to this news. Some interpret the findings to mean that most teachers are, in fact, doing a pretty good job, in contravention of the rhetoric about middling teacher performance. Second is the skeptical point of view, which holds that new systems still are producing inflated results.
It’s also possible that, final ratings notwithstanding, the conversations about teaching practice the systems are supposed to produce are helping teachers get better and are therefore worthwhile for their own sake. But that’s a difficult supposition to prove empirically without a few more years of evaluation data, lots of case studies, and a way of correlating the teacher ratings to academic outcomes.
The Delaware case is particularly interesting because, as the Delaware Online news service reports, despite concerns about the test-score-based portion, all but 13 percent of teachers in the tested grades and subjects passed muster on that component. And for the most part, those teachers’ principals chose to bump up the final score and give them the benefit of the doubt anyway.
One aspect to the teacher-evaluation conversation that hasn’t been analyzed much is how much the process stands to be shaped by the norms at work in each school. For instance, I’ve heard anecdotally that principals are reluctant to issue low ratings because of the likelihood that it could affect morale and working relationships; others have told me that in shortage fields like special education, there aren’t tons of people who could replace current teachers anyway.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.