The State of Teacher Evaluation Reform

A flurry of legislative activity in 2010, spurred in part by Race to the Top, left many states with new teacher-evaluation systems, performance-pay metrics, tenure protocols, and more. This report, authored by Patrick McGuinn for the Center for American Progress, suggests that states are now struggling to implement and sustain these muscular policies. He looks closely at the implementation of revamped teacher-evaluation protocols in six states:  Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. How have they managed their increased role in what has long been a local pursuit? The process has proved slow and frustrating: New units (created to provide services like evaluator training and to track teacher effectiveness) have faced difficulties coordinating their work with that of local education agencies. Administrators skilled in teacher evaluation are scarce, forcing states to lean heavily on outside organizations. The see-saw between state policy and local control has proven particularly difficult to balance: Do states impose statewide evaluation systems (as in Delaware and Tennessee) or grant districts more flexibility? Still, these challenges are not insurmountable. McGuinn offers a number of common-sensical yet sensible recommendations to that end: For example, he urges officials to reflect on which tasks state education agencies are best-equipped to undertake and to think carefully about the tradeoffs between hiring outside organizations and building their own capacity. McGuinn’s report is a valuable reminder that any successful reform scheme must couple ambition with a commitment to building capacity.

Patrick McGuinn, The State of Teacher Evaluation Reform (Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress, November 2012).

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