NEPC Review: For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era (Bellwether Education Partners, December 2016)
Although teacher evaluation reform has rapidly expanded across the U.S. in recent years, the newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) seems to mark a federal deprioritization of teacher evaluation reform. This may in turn prompt states to consider changes to their evaluation systems. A new report from Bellwether Education Partners, For Good Measure? Teacher Evaluation Policy in the ESSA Era, argues for the maintenance of key elements of high-stakes teacher evaluation, including the use of student outcomes to evaluate teachers and a heavy focus on accountability. It urges policymakers to move slowly in revising their systems and to invest in management, capacity, and strategies to capture lessons learned. While the report raises several good questions with regard to the future of teacher evaluation, it overstates the likelihood that ESSA will result in widespread changes to evaluation systems, it ignores the literature regarding substantial technical challenges and unintended consequences of growth measures, and it dismisses the ideological and political debates surrounding teacher accountability. The unsubstantiated claims and dogged defense of student growth metrics provides little fresh or worthwhile new directions to policymakers seeking a nuanced and research-based discussion of teacher evaluation reform in the ESSA era.