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EVALUATING TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS: New Report Examines How Teacher Assessments Can Be Reliable Indicators of Teacher Success

“Unlike most high-achieving nations, the United States has not yet developed a national system of supports and incentives to ensure that all teachers are well prepared and ready to teach all students effectively when they enter the profession.”

A new report from the Center for American Progress argues that the nation lacks a practical set of standards and assessments to determine that teachers—especially those who are new to the profession—are well prepared and ready to teach; even though it is well known that the key to improving public education is highly effective teachers. The report, Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: How Teacher Performance Assessments Can Measure and Improve Teaching, calls for a transformation in the ways the education system attracts, prepares, supports, and develops expert teachers. It argues that teacher assessments for licensing and certification can reflect and highly predict teachers’ success with children.

“Unlike most high-achieving nations, the United States has not yet developed a national system of supports and incentives to ensure that all teachers are well prepared and ready to teach all students effectively when they enter the profession,” writes the report’s author, Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, codirector of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and an Alliance for Excellent Education governing board member. “Nor is there a set of widely available methods to support the evaluation and ongoing development of teacher effectiveness throughout the career, along with decisions about entry and continuation in the profession.”

The report notes that there has been growing interest in moving beyond traditional measures of teacher qualifications—completion of a preparation program, number of degrees, or years of experience—in order to evaluate teachers’ actual performance as the basis for making decisions about hiring, tenure, licensing, compensation, and selection for leadership roles. However, current measures for evaluating teachers are not often linked to the capacity to teach. In most instances, the report finds, methods for defining and measuring teacher quality either rely almost exclusively on classroom observations by principals who differentiate little among teachers and offer little useful feedback, or the methods focus on teachers’ course-taking records and on “paper-and-pencil tests” of basic academic skills and subject-matter knowledge that are poor predictors of later effectiveness in the classroom. Additionally, because each state creates its own teacher requirements, there is a wide variation in what teachers are expected to do.

The report examines efforts currently underway to achieve a system of reliable, valid, and nationally available performance assessments—from a teacher’s point of entry through the development of accomplished teaching. “Such a system would create a more useful and more common standard for the profession, just as national assessments do in fields such as nursing, engineering, accounting, medicine, and other skilled professions,” the report argues. “A system of performance assessments could also leverage improvements in practice and professional learning opportunities.”

The report notes that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (National Board) has developed a standards-based approach to assessing teachers that involves creating a portfolio that demonstrates teachers’ practice and performance and includes videotapes with commentary of teachers teaching, as well as lesson plans and evidence of student learning over time. The portfolios are scored by trained raters who are knowledgeable in the same teaching field using rubrics that define vital dimensions of teaching as the basis of the evaluation.

Because National Board certification is reserved for experienced teachers, a consortium of states with the support of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has created related standards for beginning teacher licensing and more than forty states have adopted these standards into their licensing systems. In July 2010, the consortium proposed new standards that represent a new vision of teaching in alignment with the common core state standards for English language arts and mathematics. To learn more about this effort, check out arecent webinar that the Alliance and CCSSO hosted on October 6.

In addition, twenty states have joined together with the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and CCSSO to create the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium, a common initial licensing assessment that can be used nationwide to make preparation and licensing performance based. The consortium has already completed the design of the assessments in the initial licensing areas and plans to test pilot these assessments during School Year 2010–11 while completing the design of the remaining licensing areas.

The report notes that the best practices from these initiatives “support a continuum across the teaching career for identifying and supporting stronger teaching and making more grounded personnel decisions based on a common, comprehensive set of standards that can be adopted nationwide to ensure that only the most well-prepared and effective teachers are instructing our public schools students.”

In conclusion, the report notes that teacher performance assessments can support more rigorous assessments and increase the consistency with which teacher licensure decisions are made across states. It also notes that the assessments can provide data that states can use to inform teacher quality initiatives, make accreditation decisions, and plan teacher inductions and in-service development.

The report also offers recommendations on how teacher education programs, states, school districts, schools, teacher development programs, and others can use teacher performance assessments to improve the consistency and quality of data on beginning teacher effectiveness and anchor a continuum of performance assessments throughout the teaching career.

To read the full report, visit:

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