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Map Provides Context for Reforms of Teacher Evaluation Systems

Published:  May 21, 2013
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Nearly every state is overhauling its teacher evaluation system, implementing new teacher observation tools and incorporating measures of student achievement. Why?

In 2009, The New Teacher Project’s seminal paper, The Widget Effect, brought teacher effectiveness front and center of national education debates. The paper found that while teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school factor when it comes to improving student achievement, states and school districts were not measuring or using it to inform staffing decisions in any meaningful way. The report promoted discussions on how to improve teaching and learning centered on using student outcome data as a way to better identify and reward highly effective teachers, and to help less effective teachers improve or counsel them to leave the classroom.

The Obama Administration amplified the call for a focus on teacher effectiveness and student learning outcomes as part of its education agenda, triggering much of the reform. In late 2009, the administration announced its Race to the Top competition with one of the requirements for states to include student growth as a significant factor in rating teacher performance. Several states passed legislation to make them more competitive for the program.

In fact, since 2009, more than 35 states have made policy changes many through legislation; some through regulation only. The map below illustrates some of the factors driving teacher evaluation overhauls, including federal grant programs such as Race to the Top and the Teacher Incentive Fund as well as the administration’s No Child Left Behind waivers.


Reasons for Reforms of Teacher Evaluation Systems

Sources: New America Foundation; National Council on Teacher Quality; Education Week; U.S. Department of Education; and Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institute for Research. (Based on information as of 2012.)

The map also shows how each state has decided to design its evaluations. Some states are designing evaluation systems that districts must implement. Some are designing evaluation models, which districts can choose to adopt or to create their own. And some states are setting specific evaluation parameters that districts must adhere to in designing their own systems.

Some states have used federal initiatives as an opportunity to think about what new teacher evaluation systems should look like. Others have hastily adopted plans that, while possibly improving upon current systems, raise new concerns of their own, especially about how student achievement data will be used to evaluate early grade teachers.

You can read more about that in the recent paper released by the Early Education Initiative: “An Ocean of Unknowns: the Risks and Opportunities in Using Student Achievement Data to Evaluate PreK-3rd Grade Teachers.” A larger version of the map can be found here.

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