Teacher evaluation is a topic of hot debate in the world of K-12 schooling, and for good reason.
You have the responsibility to make sure the students in your school are receiving a good education — and that the foundation of their education is based on engaged, effective teaching.
Strong instructional leadership will help guide teachers to success, but teacher evaluation is key for the professional and personal growth that leads teachers to improved performance.
That makes teacher evaluation one of the most important tasks on your to-do list. Unfortunately, measuring the proficiency of the teachers in your school isn’t easy.
But don’t worry: There are teacher evaluation models that give you a clear and reliable view of your teaching staff.
So, how can you make sure you’re using the right teacher evaluation model?
In this guide, we’re going to discuss:
- What makes a teacher evaluation model reliable
- How evaluation models have evolved in recent years
- Four major teacher evaluation models, and their pros and cons
- Examples of how these teacher evaluation models have been used in the real world
Let’s get started!
Teacher evaluation: What makes a model reliable?
A truly valuable teacher evaluation model will help you see the strengths and weaknesses of each individual teacher working under your management.
This allows you to:
- Make informed decisions about the teachers in your school
- Give constructive feedback to teachers, helping them to develop their professional skills
So, how can you ensure that you’re using a reliable evaluation model?
The best way is to look at its results:
1. Is the evaluation model consistent?
Is a teacher getting a high rating one year, and a low rating the next year? If they haven’t changed their teaching methods but are receiving inconsistent scores, then the model is faulty.
2. Do the teachers themselves trust the evaluation model?
If your teachers voice negative opinions about a certain evaluation model, it’s important to take that into consideration. If you use a model that your teachers don’t trust, they’ll be quick to discount the feedback they receive.
3. Can the teacher evaluation model be affected by bias?
Bias or prejudice can cause a school administrator either to reduce or inflate the score that certain teachers receive. If the score of a teacher can be greatly influenced by the bias of the person running the evaluation, that model is not reliable.
Of course, teacher evaluation models are continuing to evolve, especially in light of recent updates to the education system.
How changes in the system mean changes in teacher assessment
20 years ago, teacher evaluation was done on a much less intense scale, and it was not such a topic of debate.
However, times have changed, and so has the system.
The kick-off was a report published in 2009, which studied 12 school districts. This study found that almost 100% of teachers had been ranked ‘satisfactory’ when evaluated, and also that more than 43 percent of teachers rated their own instructional performance a nine or higher.
So, the question was raised: How can current evaluation models be accurate if all teachers are ranked the same?
A new model was obviously needed.
In the last 10 years, many new studies, innovations, and laws were produced, which completely reshaped the scene of teacher evaluations.
Although teacher evaluations have changed, however, it’s somewhat ironic to note that teacher ratings remained high even after all of these new evaluation systems were implemented.
So, again comes the question: how can you tell whether the teachers in your school are truly effective?
Which teacher evaluation model will work best for you?
The 4 major teacher evaluation models and what they can do
It’s time to dive in to the top teacher evaluation models being used today.
Keep reading to find the evaluation model that works best for your school.
1. The Value-Added Model (VAM)
In basic terms, VAM measures how a certain teacher contributes to the progress of their students.
How does it work? Basically, like this:
- VAM takes the test scores of students from previous years, as well as information about their background, and predicts what their test scores will be in the following year.
- Data is then collected on whether students exceeded those expectations or not.
- The teacher’s value-added estimate is calculated by finding the average of differences between the actual and predicted scores of the students.
In theory, this method allows you to compare the effectiveness of different teachers by showing their results: how did their students improve from one testing period to another?
- VAM, once implemented, is a simple calculation. That means it takes much less time than teacher observation.
- In theory, it allows school admins to make apples-to-apples comparisons among the teachers that work under them.
- One study found that teacher misclassification using the value-added model could be up to 35%.
- VAM ratings could be influenced by the students assigned to teachers rather than by their own teaching ability.
- This model allows you to see the best and the worst teachers, but it’s hard to define those who land in-between.
- If student scores are already high, it’s difficult for teachers to continually raise them. This is known as the ceiling effect: If student scores aren’t increasing, teachers will rank badly in the VAM, but how can you help a student increase a score that’s already high?
It’s clear from real-life examples that the value-added model, while effective to a certain degree, can have a nasty turn for the worst when left unchecked.
Several examples in the state of Tennessee show that VAM was ineffectual and unfair both for teachers and for students.
So, does that mean the value-added model is completely useless?
Not at all.
There are several serious advantages to using VAM when conducting teacher evaluations.
Moreover, educational software for subjects like math is making it easier than ever to visualize and track student progress — simplifying the calculation of student performance and enhancing the accuracy and ease-of-use of the VAM.
However, it should not be the only factor used in ranking how well your teachers do their work.
So, let’s discuss another model.
2. Teacher observations
Watching teachers in the classroom is a tried and tested way for school administrators to see how effectual the teachers are.
Seeing how a teacher handles the classroom, what kind of atmosphere they bring to the group, the content they have prepared for their class, and how they handle to their responsibilities is a surefire way to a reliable evaluation.
Or is it?
Unfortunately, the reliability of an observation can only be as reliable as the observer.
Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of this model, and discuss how to improve the effectiveness of teacher observations.
- Well-designed rubrics allow for consistent, reliable results.
- Allows school admins to be completely aware of what goes on in their school.
- Gives admins the ability to see extra details in the classroom, such as a teacher’s rapport with the students, body language of both parties, and whether students are treated with respect.
- Observing teachers in class takes a lot of time from a school admin’s busy schedule.
- First impressions matter: a negative impression at the start has been proven to linger in the mind of the observer.
- Teacher observations can be influenced by bias on the part of the observer.
- When a school administrator is present in the classroom, both student and teacher behavior may be different since the kids don’t want to get in trouble and the teacher is probably nervous.
How to make teacher observations more effective
Observing teachers in the classroom gives administrators the incredible advantage of feeling the atmosphere of the lesson, not just seeing the test results.
But what about those serious disadvantages?
There are proven ways to make teacher observations a more reliable evaluation method. Let’s discuss three of them.
The observers must be taught. It’s essential for all involved in the observation process to have the same understanding of how to take in evidence and translate that into a consistent and reliable ranking for the teachers.
For example, The Rhode Island Department of Education trained observers by giving them a basic understanding of the rubric, then assigning each group a component and allowing them to discuss what was being measured.
They also discussed different indicators that could be seen in the classroom. This helped all involved to understand the definition of the rubric, and to produce more consistent results.
Include more observers. To reduce bias, include more observers.
A study by the MET Project shows that using multiple observers for the same teachers increases accuracy, since this would remove bias from the equation.
This same study also proved that observing teachers for 15-minute increments was 60% as reliable as watching a full lesson, but took only ⅓ of the time.
Make use of video for observations. A two-year study project called the Best Foot Forward Project found that recording teachers in class had serious advantages for teacher observation.
School admins used video clips as a point of reference when giving feedback to teachers, and found that their conversations were more geared towards collaboration.
Also, using video allows school admins to observe teachers at a time that’s convenient for them, not necessarily during class hours.
Using video also gave teachers and admins a better view of what was going on in the classroom.
For example, do you think you’d notice if a student was throwing a ball against the wall for an entire class? Think again: one teacher in this study watched a video of his class and only then discovered that a student had been bouncing a golf ball for the entire period!
It’s clear that observations are an important part of teacher evaluations. When done correctly, these observations can provide a reliable view of a teacher’s ability and the effect on their students.
3. The Framework Model
Developed in 1996 by Charlotte Danielson, the Framework for Teaching (FFT) was originally meant to be the definition of good teaching.
This Framework is based on four different Domains. They cover the four essential responsibilities of teachers:
- Planning and Preparation
- Classroom Environment
- Professional Responsibilities
In total, there are 22 components inside these domains, which cover 76 smaller elements of teaching.
The goal of this evaluation model is to help observations become more meaningful, giving both school administrators and teachers the ability to improve in their skills.
The Framework model has been run through several different validation studies, most of which have come up with a similar result: using the Framework as a teacher evaluation model produces consistently positive results.
In other words, when schools use FFT for teacher evaluations, the teachers develop their skills and the students improve their grades.
When the Chicago Public School District started implementing the Danielson Framework for Teaching in their teacher evaluations, a study was conducted to see how the Framework actually helped schools.
Both teachers and principals agreed on three major benefits when using the FFT for teacher evaluations:
- Discussions were more focused.
- Reflection on instructional practice was increased.
- Feedback became more evidence-based, rather than being subjective.
In the end, 89% of school administrators agreed that the quality of conversations with teachers had greatly improved when using the Framework in teacher evaluations.
However, it was also found that the success of the Framework model was highly subjective to the understanding both teachers and evaluators have of the model. In other words, the more training and knowledge of the Framework, the better the results.
4. The Marzano Focused Teacher Evaluation Model
Developed by Dr. Robert Marzano and Dr. Beverly Carbaugh, this research-based teacher evaluation model narrows down the art of teaching to 23 essential competencies.
These competencies are focused into four different categories:
- Standards-Based Planning
- Standards-Based Instruction
- Conditions for Learning
- Professional Responsibilities
In a similar approach to the Framework model, the Marzano Model focuses not only on the actual instruction given by teachers, but also the atmosphere of the classroom and the behind-the-scenes work involved in teaching.
How teachers at A.D. Henderson improved their skills with the Marzano Model
A.D. Henderson, in Boca Raton, is a public elementary and middle school that strives for excellence. In 2011, they implemented the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model and saw great results for both teachers and students.
In an interview with some of the teachers at A.D. Henderson, three main benefits were identified:
- Teachers grew professionally
- Teachers learned how to engage students better
- More focus was given to planning and creating learning goals
This was a large improvement from the checklists previously used for teacher evaluations, as conversations with school administrators were more focused, giving teachers better feedback to improve with.
For example: Brian Schum, a civics and history teacher at A.D. Henderson, said his own teaching ability improved after useful feedback with the Marzano model.
As he improved, he saw improvement in his students: they began to generate and test hypotheses, use evidence to support those theories, and progressively revise their knowledge.
Mr. Schum’s conclusion about the Marzano teacher evaluation model was this: “When you get to the end of the year, you feel fulfilled.”
Conclusion: A Combination of teacher evaluation models produces results you can rely on
After discussing these different teacher evaluation models, which one stands out to you?
It’s obvious that each teaching model has its strong points as well as its faults. Does that mean you should just pick one and hope for the best?
A study by the MET project found that there are three essential factors to teacher evaluation, which should all be considered in balance:
- A value-added method
- Students’ opinions of their teachers
- Teacher observations based on a model (such as the Framework or the Marzano model)
Balancing these three factors allows school administrators to have a clear understanding of what is going on in their school, as well as how students are being affected.
Obviously, you want the best for your school. Your ultimate goal is to have teachers who continually develop their abilities in the classroom, and students who take advantage of this education to the fullest.
Use these tips to implement the right balance in your teacher evaluations, and you’ll be able to help both students and teachers succeed in the classroom.