The hangover: Nation's teacher evaluation binge has unintended consequences

"The recent [teacher] evaluation binge is not without risks… headlong rushes inevitably produce unintended consequences--something akin to a policy hangover as ideas move from conception to implementation." – Sara Mead, Andrew Rotherham, and Rachel Brown in "The Hangover: Thinking about Unintended Consequences of the Nation's Teacher Evaluation Binge"

In the second installment of the American Enterprise Institute's (AEI's) Teacher Quality 2.0 paper series, Sara Mead, Andrew Rotherham, and Rachel Brown of Bellwether Education assess the progress of performance-based teacher evaluations. As states continue to turn teacher evaluation practices into law, policymakers, reform advocates, and educators must be aware of the practical limits of these reforms.

Some of the key tensions and tradeoffs the authors highlight:

  • Avoid overly prescriptive policies: While there is a temptation to increase the rigor of detailed evaluation mandates, prescriptive language will limit school autonomy and stifle innovation.
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  • Make room for evolution: Recognize that, as the role of the teacher changes--for instance, as technology delivers personalized instruction alongside or in place of the teacher--evaluation practices must have the flexibility to measure performance, even in non-tested subjects and in nontraditional (blended learning) classrooms.
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  • Apply evaluation data broadly: Data from the evaluations should be used not only to provide feedback and help weed out underperforming teachers, but also to inform processes such as assigning teachers and students to classrooms -- a historically random practice.
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  • Evaluate teachers as professionals:   Some new evaluation systems eliminate "subjective" criteria such a managerial judgment and rely on data-driven criteria only.  Evaluations in most professional fields rely on a combination of the two.
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Click here to learn more about AEI's Teacher Quality 2.0 project.

You might also be interested in a just-published piece by AEI's Andrew Kelly and Rick Hess on the role of the federal government in education reform.  To read "A Federal Education Agenda," click here.

Andrew Rotherham (andy@bellwethereducation.org) is Co-Founder and Partner at Bellwether Education Partners, where Sara Mead (sara@bellweathereducation.org) is an Associate Partner and Rachel Brown (Rachel@bellwethereducation.org) is an Associate.

For additional help, other media inquiries, or to reserve AEI's in-house TV studio or ISDN facilities, please contact:

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Print or Web Jesse Blumenthal jesse@aei.org / 202.862.4870, Michael Pratt at michael.pratt@aei.org / 202.862.5823

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