What do teachers really think of the evaluation process?
- Almost 90% of teachers report receiving feedback on their practice at least once a year — usually through their district’s evaluation system. But those who get feedback from peers, a mentor or a coach express more positive views of the process, according to the latest findings from the American Teacher Panel.
- Conducted by the RAND Corp., the panel is a nationally representative sample of teachers who respond to questions about issues affecting the teaching profession. The results related to teacher evaluation also show that those who receive feedback more frequently are more likely to say that the input helped them improve their practices.
- Teachers in higher-poverty schools also reported receiving more feedback overall than those in lower-poverty schools, but classroom observations can also create “a significant time burden on principals,” the researchers write.
The teacher evaluation and observation process has changed significantly from the days that principals conducted what were sometimes referred to as “drive-by” classroom visits. And that was if they observed teachers at all. States not only increased the frequency of observations, but also began implementing more rigorous methods for evaluating teachers, driven largely by requirements under former President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top grant program.
While much has been published about states’ efforts to redesign their evaluation systems, there has been little understanding of whether teachers perceive feedback systems to be helpful. The RAND report suggests that those who believe the system is meant to encourage teacher growth — instead of being punitive — are more likely to view it as fair. “Without a sense that the received feedback is worth acting on, teachers might subvert or ignore the message and preserve their existing practices,” the authors write.
In addition, they suggest that school leaders perhaps look to higher-poverty schools on how to build “robust feedback systems,” but also to consider whether informal feedback from peers and other instructional leaders might contribute more to teachers’ growth than that which administrators provide as part of official evaluation systems.
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