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VAMboozled!: NCTQ on States’ Teacher Evaluation Systems’ Failures, Again

In February of 2017, the controversial National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) — created by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute and funded (in part) by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as “part of a coalition for ‘a better orchestrated agenda’ for accountability, choice, and using test scores to drive the evaluation of teachers” (see here) — issued a report about states’ teacher evaluation systems titled: “Running in Place: How New Teacher Evaluations Fail to Live Up to Promises.” See another blog post about a similar (and also slanted) study NCTQ conducted two years prior here. The NCTQ recently published another — a “State of the States: Teacher & Principal Evaluation Policy.” Like I did in those two prior posts, I summarize this report, only as per their teacher evaluation policy findings and assertions, below. 

  • In 2009, only 15 states required objective measures of student growth (e.g., VAMs) in teacher evaluations; by 2015 this number increased nearly threefold to 43 states. However, as swiftly as states moved to make these changes, many of them have made a hasty retreat. Now there are 34 states requiring such measures. These modifications to these nine states’ evaluation systems are “poorly supported by research literature” which, of course, is untrue. Of note, as well, is that there are no literature cited to support this very statement.
  • For an interesting and somewhat interactive chart capturing what states are doing in the areas of their teacher and principal evaluation systems, however, you might want to look at NCTQ’s Figure 3 (again, within the full report, here). Not surprisingly, NCTQ subtotals these indicators by state and essentially categorizes states by the extent to which they have retreated from such “research-backed policies.” 
    • You can also explore states’ laws, rules, and regulations, that range from data about teacher preparation, licensing, and evaluation to data about teacher compensation, professional development, and dismissal policies via NCTQ’s State Teacher Policy Database here.
  • Do states use data from state standardize tests to evaluate their teachers? See the (promising) evidence of states backing away from research-backed policies here (as per NCTQ’s Figure 5):
  • Also of interest is the number of states in which student surveys are being used to evaluate teachers, which is something reportedly trending across states, but perhaps not so much as currently thought (as per NCTQ’s Figure 9).

  • The NCTQ also backs the “research-backed benefits” of using such surveys, primarily (and again not surprisingly) in that they correlate (albeit at very weak-to-weak magnitudes) with the more objective measures (e.g., VAMs) still being pushed by the NCTQ. The NCTQ also, entirely, overlooks the necessary conditions required to make the data derived from student surveys, as well as their use, “reliable and valid” as over-simplistically claimed.

The rest of the report includes the NCTQ’s findings and assertions regarding states’ principal evaluation systems. If these are of interest, please scroll to the lower part of the document, again, available here.

Citation: Ross, E. & Walsh, K. (2019). State of the States 2019: Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

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Audrey Amrein-Beardsley

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, a former middle- and high-school mathematics teacher, received her Ph.D. in 2002 from Arizona State University in the Division of Educati...