Imbalanced Report Partially Explores Teacher Evaluation Reform

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Report raises good questions about the future of teacher evaluation but uses faulty logic and incomplete analysis in drawing its conclusions.

In response to pressure from the Obama administration, many states adopted policies linking teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests and other measured outcomes. However, the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) seems to mark a federal deprioritization of teacher evaluation reform.

A new report from Bellwether Education Partners seeks to influence states’ decisions about possible revisions to teacher evaluation policies, but its conclusions are often underdeveloped or unsubstantiated.

Amy Farley, an Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati, reviewed For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

The report argues for the maintenance of key elements of high-stakes teacher evaluation, including the heavy focus on accountability and the use of student outcomes to evaluate teachers. It also urges policymakers to invest in management, capacity, and strategies to capture lessons learned.

While the report raises several good questions with regard to the future of teacher evaluation, it has three key flaws: it overstates the likelihood that ESSA will result in widespread changes to evaluation systems, it ignores the literature regarding substantial technical challenges and unintended consequences of growth measures, and it dismisses the ideological and political debates surrounding teacher accountability.

Professor Farley concludes that the report offers “little fresh or worthwhile” guidance for policymakers. The unsubstantiated claims and dogged defense of student growth metrics poorly serve policymakers seeking a nuanced and research-based discussion of teacher evaluation reform in the ESSA era.

Find Amy Farley’s review at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-evaluation

Find For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era, by Kaitlin Pennington and Sara Mead, published by Bellwether Education Partners, at:
http://bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_ForGoodMeasure-GPLH_Final1216%20%281%29.pdf

Find Documents:
Press Release: http://nepc.info/node/8497
NEPC Review: nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-evaluation
Report Reviewed: bellwethereducation.org/sites/default/files/Bellwether_ForGoodMeasure-GPLH_Final1216%20(1).pdf

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org) provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

Amy N. Farley
University of Cincinnati
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