Teacher Evaluation Improves Student Achievement

As measured by gains in student achievement, teachers, even experienced, mid-career classroom instructors, improved as a result of their participation in a formal evaluation process. An Education Week report cites two studies conducted in Cincinnati, which has an extended history using a formal evaluation system consisting of four formal observations. In Cincinnati, teachers are given a rating relating three standards: classroom practices, classroom management, and questioning and discussion techniques.

In addition to discovering that

1. Teacher participation in a formal evaluation process improved student achievement, the first study concluded the following:

2. Classroom Management Improves Math Performance

The study found that “while overall teaching practice was the best predictor of student achievement, classroom management was more highly correlated with better math performance.”

3. Questioning Improves Reading

Teacher use of open-ended questions was more highly correlated with student performance than classroom management.

In a second study, also conducted in Cincinnati, student performance not only improved in the year that the mid-career teachers were being evaluated, but the improvement in student performance continued and even increased in the years following the evaluation.

It is important to note that in the Cincinnati evaluation system teachers are not evaluated annually and that the evaluation process does not use a value-added component. In addition, the Cincinnati teacher evaluation system connects to a career ladder for teachers, which may be a motivating factor.

Implications for School Leaders

- Teacher evaluation is not the most enjoyable part of a school leader’s job. However, knowing that teacher evaluation improves student achievement makes the process more meaningful.

- If school leaders want to make a difference in student achievement, teacher evaluation is a no-cost way to do so.

- Teacher evaluation is most effective when the teachers are clear on what behaviors will be evaluated, and if both teachers and principals have had extensive, multi-year professional development. Cincinnati was chosen precisely because both factors were present. In addition, many states and districts are proposing similar evaluation models and Cincinnati’s decade long experience should help inform future practice.

- Even more encouraging is the fact that student achievement continues to improve in the years following a meaningful evaluation process of even the most experienced teachers.

- It makes sense that questioning improves reading, but I wonder why classroom management makes a bigger difference in math classes. Perhaps the sequential nature of math demands continuous attention and student engagement–students miss out if they miss a step in the process.

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