Since President Obama’s Race to the Top competition made teacher evaluation systems based in part on academic growth a central requirement of winning, most states have mandated them.
Making teachers accountable for student success is a laudable goal, but district-wide approaches don’t usually work. Most teachers regard evaluations as part of a bureaucratic checklist that creates unnecessary paperwork and presents an incomplete picture of the work they do. And recent research shows that in the majority of states, the number of teachers rated “unsatisfactory” remains less than 1 percent, even in struggling school districts.
The data on school performance suggests that it’s far more effective to hold schools accountable for student learning than individual teachers. Districts should replace schools where students are falling too far behind and expand or replicate schools that succeed. If they face such consequences, most schools will figure out how to evaluate their teachers, in ways that fit their cultures and goals.
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