Although states and districts across the country have been implementing and prioritizing teacher evaluation strategies for years, very little research has explored how teacher evaluation data shape leaders' decisions. A new study from the Regional Educational Laboratory West describes how five Arizona school districts are using teacher evaluation data to inform decisions concerning teacher professional development, compensation, school and classroom assignment, remediation, and retention.
During the study year (2014-15) each district administered its own teacher evaluation system, developed to align with state evaluation regulations passed in 2011. Because of the variations in local system design, researchers developed a case study for each of the five districts, and then summarized common practices and perceptions across districts related to the use of evaluation data (see table). Findings were drawn from interviews with district officials and instructional coaches and online surveys of school principals and teachers.
Among the findings across the study districts:
• Evaluation data shape the work of instructional coaches and the support opportunities (books, webinars, and online videos) suggested for teachers.
• Observation data are perceived by school and district leaders as more useful for professional development decisions than student test results because they are collected over repeated occasions and made available during the school year.
• Online systems facilitate timely observation-based feedback.
• Teachers view themselves as responsible for their own professional growth and are somewhat skeptical of school- and district-wide professional development.
• Evaluation data are not systematically used to identify teacher leaders or to assign teachers to schools or classrooms, but such data serve as the basis for decisions on remediation and allocation of state performance pay funds.
• Teachers were more skeptical than administrators about the benefits of their new evaluations.
Findings from the study suggest positive benefits from the organizational structures that support the review of data during the school year-standards-based observation frameworks, benchmark assessments, professional learning communities, and instructional coaching and feedback.