Teacher Evaluations: Are You Using Them Correctly?
When students and teachers are only judged by the students’ performance on an end-of-year test, schools, districts, and the entire educational system loses the opportunity to develop better ways of teaching and learning in our classrooms.
End-of-year tests offer limited insights into student learning or a teacher’s effectiveness; it’s like trying to determine what a finished puzzle looks like from a single piece. For too long, teachers and administrators have had to make decisions based on a tiny portion of the overall picture: annual standardized tests and intermittent evaluations.
Instead of relying on standardized testing alone, comprehensive teacher evaluations should be conducted and analyzed regularly throughout the year. This enables administrators and teachers alike to make crucial decisions based on timely data–not tests and evaluations conducted months ago.
Understanding Teacher Evaluations
According to the NEA, “Measures of teacher performance are most helpful and meaningful when they are based on multiple ratings and clear teaching standards in the formative growth process.”
This supports the idea that teachers cannot be assessed based on student performance alone. Administrators can get a more comprehensive view of teacher effectiveness using a combination of evaluation mediums such as:
- Classroom observation
- Common evaluations within school subjects
- Student ratings
Using Teacher and Student Evaluations Together
Successful education relies on both a teacher’s ability to teach and a student’s ability to learn. It doesn’t make sense to try and solve educational problems with just one set of data or the other.
How to Use Evaluation Data
Find the Why Behind Successful Teachers
You may be able to identify your top-performing teachers without a lot of data analysis. Data from end-of-year tests might tell you that one teacher is having more success in their classroom according to a certain rubric than other teachers, but it doesn’t tell you why. It doesn’t help you identify, analyze, and replicate this success in other classrooms.
Consistent evaluation, paired with meaningful data analysis can help you identify why certain teachers experience more success in different areas than others. When you’re able to hone in on these strengths, you can start to determine how other teachers can mimic these successful methods and behaviors with their own classes.
Identify and Help At-Risk Students
Teachers can often identify struggling at-risk students in their classes because of the amount of time they spend with each student. While they might have the tools to tackle the problem on an individual basis, they likely will lack the information needed to treat underlying problems such as knowledge gaps or differences in learning style. It’s one thing to have a sense that a child is struggling; a teacher’s intuition can be a powerful tool, but having data to back up that intuition can help show a teacher exactly where at-risk students need the most help.
Data analysis of the student and teacher evaluations can help administrators identify students who are currently struggling, at-risk students, and some of the underlying factors that cause students to struggle in their school or district.
Students can struggle in school for a variety of reasons, but, unless you understand which factors are affecting your school/district, the strategies you use to improve student performance will be based on little more than an educated guess. Data can show you if there is a large correlation between attendance (or other factors) and performance in your school. You can also identify groups that struggle in particular subjects and create programs or adjust curriculums accordingly.
For example, because subjects like math rely on cumulative knowledge, if students fail to grasp early concepts, you will see a ripple effect throughout the year, and possibly in future years of school as well. A dedicated teacher might be able to identify some of the students who struggled with an early concept and work with them to catch up. However, with regular evaluation and data analysis, we can take this a step further.
Using the accumulated data, administrators can determine when student scores started to drop in a particular class. They can cross reference the change in scores with other data points to see if there is a unifying factor among those who are struggling. They can use this information to help teachers treat root causes early on.
Additionally, administrators can compare the performance of students in one class with another to see if other teachers present the information in a way that resonates better with students.
Measure Outcome of Changes and Adjust Accordingly
No matter how much quantitative and qualitative data you use to construct a new policy or program, you won’t be able to determine the success of the changes until it is actually enacted. Consistent student and teacher evaluations will enable you to see the effects of your change in almost real time.
The consistent feedback will enable you to measure how well the information is being disseminated by teachers and received by students along the way. You’ll be able to make small course corrections to perfect the policy or program.
Without this feed of data analysis, you might not detect small, fixable issues until they grew into larger problems. An overall good program could be considered a failure due to a lack of timely information.
To learn more about how you can use student and teacher evaluation data to improve your schools and districts, contact Performance Matters.