Teacher Evaluation 2.0 – An Upgrade That Isn’t

Report relies on truisms, conventional wisdom rather than cutting-edge research

Contact: H. Richard Milner, (615) 480-7474; rich.milner@vanderbilt.edu
William Mathis, NEPC, (802) 383-0058; William.Mathis@Colorado.edu

BOULDER, CO (November 16, 2010) – A new review of The New Teacher Project’s recent report Teacher Evaluation 2.0 finds that the report’s recommendations for teacher evaluation boil down, for the most part, to truisms and conventional wisdom, lacking a supporting presentation of scholarly evidence. The report was reviewed for the ‘Think Twice’ Think Tank Review Project by Vanderbilt University professor H. Richard Milner. The Project is housed in the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

In his review, Milner notes that the report suffers from several additional problems. Among them: It assumes teacher evaluation reform can be a panacea for resolving far greater educational problems. He finds that the report has a misplaced emphasis on standardized tests and value-added assessment while ignoring more than a decade of evidence detailing the limitations on the use of these measures. He also finds that the report doesn’t take into account a variety of resource limitations, especially in under-resourced and understaffed schools, an omission that will likely thwart implementation of at least some of its recommendations.

The heart of Teacher Evaluation 2.0 consists of six design standards for evaluation: an annual process; clear, rigorous expectations; multiple measures; multiple ratings; regular feedback; and significance—that is, consequences for the teachers being evaluated. The report argues that current teacher evaluation practices result in evaluations that are too infrequent, too unfocused, and too broad (offering only “pass/fail” or other binary options instead of more nuanced ratings).

Further the report asserts that current evaluations are unhelpful to teachers seeking to improve classroom practice and performance and are not backed up by meaningful consequences for poor performance. It advocates for evaluations to have high stakes and be used in decisions about teacher firing, promotion, tenure, and reappointment. The report thus combines commonly accepted ideas with the current push for high-stakes policies, but in neither case is the report adequately buttressed with research findings.

The report includes no explicit account of how its proposed standards were derived. Readers will find anecdotal examples to illuminate the proposed standards, but these are offered without any indication of how they were selected, whether they are truly representative of what U.S. schools do, and how they can be generalized. “No evidence is presented in this report to suggest that these examples have proven effective or that they exemplify the desired traits,” Milner writes.

The result, Milner concludes, is a report that “does not tell us anything that is not already suggested or asserted in the teacher evaluation discourse,” but one that then relies for its recommendations “on appeals to common sense rather than actual empirical evidence.” Policymakers might find some suggestions in it useful, but if they implement them, they should do so “only with deliberate caution.”

Find Richard Milner’s review on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teach-eval-TNTP

Find Teacher Evaluation 2.0 by The New Teacher Project on the web at:
http://www.tntp.org/files/Teacher-Evaluation-Oct10F.pdf

The ‘Think Twice’ Think Tank Review Project (http://thinktankreview.org), a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected think tank publications. The project is made possible in part by the generous support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence.  For more information on NEPC, please visit http://nepc.colorado.edu/.

This review is also found on the GLC website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/.
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