RTTT winners still struggle with teacher evaluations

RTTT winners still struggle with teacher evaluations

(District of Columbia) Despite spending more than $5 billion in federal grants through the Race to the Top competition, only one state – Ohio – appears to have adopted all elements of the program’s teacher evaluation system.

New analysis from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences found far more compliance when it came to the Obama administration’s ambition to have teacher evaluations conducted annually and that the reviews include at least two distinct measurements.

The report, based on interviews with administrators in 49 states and the District of Columbia in the spring of 2012, explored how well state teacher evaluation policies align with Race to the Top application criteria both for states that were awarded grants and those that were not.

Researchers noted that since 2009, states that won race grants were given between $75 million and $700 million during the first stage of the competition and up to $43 million more recently.

The race application laid out guidance in six areas that winning states were expected to embrace. Requirements included commitments to measure student achievement, to design a fair and transparent evaluation system, and to conduct annual teacher reviews.

As part of its study, the Institute of Education Sciences broke the application criteria for teacher evaluation into eight priority segments and then measured how individual states had adopted policies that were aligned to each segment.

The survey found that states required an average of less than four of the eight evaluation priority criteria.

The most common priority measure that states complied with was the adoption of a rigorous and transparent evaluation system that included at least two rating levels – with 31 states participating.

The use of student achievement growth as a measure for some or all teachers is a requirement in 29 states, with annual evaluations of teachers conducted in 25 states.

When it came to how the results of those measures were used, however, far fewer states were found to be compliant with federal goals:

  • 20 states use the evaluations results to guide decisions about professional development.
  • 21 use the results to make decisions about whether a teacher should be retained or dismissed.
  • Just six used the results to make decisions about compensation.
  • And just one state uses the results to make decisions about career advancement.

Authors of the report noted that the survey was conducted two years ago. Although the report did not name the one state that makes promotional decisions based on the evaluation results, the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System appears to be the most consistent with federal benchmarks.

In Ohio, beginning with the 2013-14 school year, teachers are evaluated annually with half of the score coming from student academic growth and the other half based on classroom observations, as well as such measures as collaboration skills and professionalism.

Under the law, local districts in Ohio are required to develop policies to use the evaluation results for retention and promotion decisions, according to the Ohio Department of Education.