NEPC Review: Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems Are Getting Results (National Council on Teacher Quality, October 2018)
A report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) highlights six teacher evaluation systems claimed to be “yielding substantial benefits.” This comes at the end of a decade when reformed teacher evaluation systems that link teacher performance to measures of student growth have been at the center of educational debate. Disagreements range from the theoretical (e.g., is teacher quality fundamentally related to inequalities in student outcomes?) to technical (e.g., which measures should be included and how should they be defined?) to practical (e.g., how should ratings be used for personnel decisions?). Overall, the research regarding teacher evaluation is mixed, at best. Most notably, a recent multi-year RAND report suggests that a $500 million investment in teacher evaluation that heavily weighted student growth measures, with considerable funding from the Gates Foundation, did not improve student outcomes and, in some cases, exacerbated unequal access to effective teachers for low-income students and students of color. The NCTQ report, while clearly promoting such teacher evaluation, does not seriously counter the groundswell of academic literature critiquing these systems. It does not address the relevant literature, present a compelling justification for its site selection or the inclusion criteria for evidence, or adequately consider disconfirming or contradictory evidence. These methodological flaws limit the validity of the report’s findings and conclusions, which ultimately diminishes the usefulness of the report for policy and practice.