Beyond Ratings

Re-envisioning State Teacher Evaluation Systems as Tools for Professional Growth
Policy Paper
March 7, 2016

To date, most of the public narrative and pushback on new teacher evaluation systems has centered around their use for high-stakes personnel decisions such as pay, promotion, and dismissal. But these systems were always intended to promote and support improvements for all teachers—not just the superstars or laggards. Why is teacher development still missing from the public narrative on—and most teachers’ daily experience of—evaluation?

In a new report, “Beyond Ratings: Re-envisioning State Teacher Evaluation Systems as Tools for Professional Growth,” New America digs deeper into this question. Building from the National Council on Teacher Quality’s recent finding that 31 states require evaluation to inform teacher development, the report authors examine these states’ efforts to help local education agencies (LEAs) make good on that policy. The authors identify three key strategies—including two-way communication, data-driven support, and ongoing monitoring—that states must employ in order to move further towards this goal.

“To date, evaluation’s connection to professional development has been overlooked by many states, including those with policies requiring that such a link be made at the local level,” Kaylan Connally explains. “But this connection is more critical now than ever before, as most states have adopted more rigorous academic standards which will require many teachers to make substantive shifts in their practice,” Melissa Tooley, the report’s co-author asserts.

Beyond Ratings provides insights into what states are currently doing to help LEAs connect evaluation and support, and explores the work of four—Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, and Tennessee—in depth to share promising practices and lessons learned. Based on this research, the report makes several recommendations for how states can use evaluation systems to better support teacher growth—whether through policy requirements that encourage accurate, frequent feedback or through the communication, support, and monitoring of these policies. Though the authors acknowledge that states’ spheres of influence and capacity will vary, they encourage states to select and tailor those recommendations that are likely to have the highest impact for their context.

“States, local education agencies, and schools must work together to ensure that teachers receive accurate, frequent, targeted feedback and suggestions for how to grow their practice,” says Kaylan Connally. “By moving beyond ratings for personnel decisions and toward meaningful feedback for ongoing teacher growth, we can help ensure that all teachers—and their students—succeed,” adds Melissa Tooley.

Learn more about this work by reading the Beyond Ratings executive summary or the full policy paper.

 Beyond Ratings