3 Teacher Evaluation Mistakes to Avoid
School districts across the US are creating new teacher evaluation systems that are supposed to better identify ineffective teaching and, in some cases, tie a teacher’s rating to student performance. My quarrel is not with the evaluation systems themselves however. My quarrel is with how they are being implemented. Here are three of the most common mistakes I’ve seen:
1. Limiting the number of teachers who can rate in the highest category: Some school districts have warned principals that they should not award too many of the highest evaluation marks for teachers. Afraid of evaluation inflation, some districts are actually discouraging evaluators giving the highest marks. What’s more, teachers are being told that it is okay if they don’t score in the highest category because most teachers rarely do.
2. Not tying professional development to the evaluation and salary system: Many teachers are being required to participate in professional development that does not directly address any one of the domains or categories for which they are being evaluated. In some districts I’ve seen, the professional development has absolutely no connection to the teacher evaluation system or the schedule for salary advancement. Thus teachers are being asked to dance to the beat of three competing drummers.
3. Not providing follow-up professional development, feedback, and coaching that helps teachers respond effectively to the evaluation: This mistake is perhaps the most egregious. While all districts provide some training to teachers and instructional leaders on the components and mechanics of the new teacher evaluation systems, most do not provide comprehensive training to show evaluators how to follow up a negative evaluation, how to give growth-oriented feedback that shows teachers how to improve, or how to help teachers respond to evaluative feedback and ultimately improve their instruction.
I wrote Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching for precisely these reasons. First, I wanted to make mastery teaching the norm, not some rarified achievement for a gifted few. I wanted to make professional development and evaluation more coherent and connected, and I wanted to provide a framework that showed leaders and teachers how to take their evaluation and turn it into an opportunity to grow. By understanding the Seven Principles of Effective Instruction and the master teacher trajectory , leaders and teachers could have an accurate assessment of where the teacher is, understand what exactly the teacher needs to do to grow, and have a process for getting the teacher there. Rather than give teachers vague evaluative feedback, provide unconnected professional development, and apply random strategies for growth, teachers and leaders could use the evaluation and professional development cycle to actually improve instructional practice.
If you want to grow as a teacher, I encourage you to focus on where your teaching challenges are and what principle or principles will best help you address those challenges. (You can find a template for doing just that in Never Work Harder Than Your Students starting on page 229). If you are an administrator, you can use your evaluative feedback to help teachers grow by connecting their teaching challenges to one or more of the principles (Check out our list of classroom challenges by principle in Never Work Harder Than Your Students page 233 for help). And, if your district is using the Danielson Framework for Teaching as the foundation of its new evaluation system, check out this TIP Sheet ( Click on the TIP Sheet "The Seven Principles and the Danielson Framework for Teaching") which shows how each of the Seven Principles helps you grow in your practice of the four domains.
It’s time we had a more coherent evaluation process that provides growth-oriented, actionable feedback with coherent professional development and consistent professional growth. The seven principles of effective instruction support your evaluation process can help you make your system do just that.