Teacher evaluation – on what basis?

Back in the late 90’s when I set out to write a book on teacher evaluation and growth I was writing out of some frustration with the existing system, which seemed more concerned with assigning a ranking or rating than actually helping the teacher or students to grow. What was it, I wondered, that caused good teachers to get better – what made them engage in continued learning that improved their teaching? What are the elements of effective teaching? What did we know about how adults learned? Could leaders help teachers to grow in meaningful and credible ways? Would all this activity result in increased student learning?

As I have followed the discussion around teacher evaluation over the years, it seemed like there was little progress being made. Various merit pay systems have been implemented, but the truth is that good teachers did not really get into teaching for the pay. Recently there has been a lot of talk about tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. Here is an article that is a good summary of what is happening in this regard.

Will this make a difference? What part of a teacher’s evaluation should be determined by student test scores? Is the test accurate in determining a year’s growth? Will students be motivated to do their best on the test? In the end, will student test scores motivate teachers? Can everything worthwhile that a teacher is doing be measured by student test results?

In a new book called Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation: How to Work Smart, Build Collaboration, and Close the Achievement Gap, Kim Marshall, long-time principal and professional leadership development consultant, provides a very helpful way forward. His appraisal that principals often fall into an HPSPS (Hyperactive Superficial Principal Syndrome) mode much of the time and into the Saints, Sinners, and Cynics categories when evaluation crunch time hits resonated with what I know to be true. Saints spend great amounts of time trying to do it all right – Marshall estimates that in a school of 35 teachers, a principal could spend as much as 300 hours (50 observations, 6 hours each with pre and post conferences included) on teacher evaluation alone.  Cynics don’t believe that the evaluation will matter anyway and so they sit down and crank them out as quickly as possible to meet requirements. Sinners don’t evaluate teachers at all – which happens more frequently than is ever admitted, but verified by the number of teachers who report having never been evaluated.

Based on his long experience as a practitioner (32 years), Marshall suggests that principals adopt a four-pronged approach to the task of improving teaching and learning:

1)    Mini-observations

2)    Team curriculum unit planning

3)    Team interim assessment work

4)    End of year rubric evaluations

I recommend this to you as a very helpful and practical book. It is filled with examples, rubrics, forms, and a well reasoned and balanced approach to a complex and critical topic.


Filed under classroom, resources, staff development

30 responses to “Teacher evaluation – on what basis?

  1. pete post

    Thanks for the article and the helpful links Dan. Currently I am teaching a course on special education assessment and we have been looking at many way to evaluate our students with devices like PIATs and SIB-R’s, PPVT’s and WRAT’s. But what I’d like for my Trinity education students to think about this week (with the help of this article) is how they would like to be assessed as a teacher. Thanks for the stimulus – I look forward to reading the responses. Prof Post

  2. pete post

    Dan, thanks so much for posting another thought provoking article that I would like to share with my education students at Trinity Christian College. Currently I am teaching a course on special education assessment and we are looking at all sorts of ways to assess our students – from DIBELs to WRAT’s, PPVT’s to SIB-R’s. But this article turns the assessment piece around and I’d like for my students to take some time to reflect on how they would like to be measured or even graded as a teacher. Thanks again for the stimulus – I look forward to the response.

  3. Lindsay Slager

    Thanks for the article! I think that evaluating teachers’ efforts based on students’ test scores is not the most effective means of evaluation. The fact is, students learn best by becoming involved in the lessons and connecting the material to themselves in some way. With teachers so preoccupied about shoving facts and formulas down students’ throats, little, if any, time is left for interaction, collaboration, and hands-on activities. Teachers, worried about their salary, are focusing too much on tests and scores, and everybody is suffering as a result. In class, I recall somebody suggesting that parents have some type of say in the evaluation of their child’s teacher. While other factors would have some weight in the matter, I think parents’ opinions are a good place to start when thinking about teacher evaluations.

  4. Kayla Schoneveld


    I am a student from Trinity Christian College and I am in Professor Post’s Assessments for Students with Special Needs class. When it comes to the evaluations of teachers, there is more to look at than the students scores on state tests and if they are grade level. Although these things are important to evaluate and observe, I feel as though teachers should be evaluating on how well they make a difference to their students. If the students are not doing well on tests, but are trying their best and are motivated to learn, then I think the teacher has made an impact on his/her students that should be recognized. As a future teacher, I want my students to succeed and do well in their studies, but before the success begins, there needs to be motivation from the students and a desire that they want to learn.

  5. Stephanie DeBoer

    As an up and coming teacher it is interesting to hear about all the ways that a teacher might be evaluated. I am curious to see if teachers will be evaluated based on their student’s test scores when i become a teacher. Like you said in your article there are many question if how a student test can accurately determine how good a teacher is. I like the four-pronged approach that the principal suggested in his book. That approach seems like it would give an accurate evaluation of the teacher. It is a shame that even though principals have resources like that book to help them evaluate their teachers they do not think that it matters for their teachers to be evaluated. I hope that more emphasis does not get put on the state test because they are stressful enough for teachers and student, but i guess we will just have to wait and see what happens.
    Thank you for posting this great article.

  6. Kim Merk

    After reading this article I found it quite intriguing that this could be a possibility to how teachers are evaluated. There are so many different areas that are not factored into testing. Perhaps a special needs student does not score very well, and this brings the entire test scores down. There is also the factor of motivation, and how to keep the students motivated. Another article I read entitled, “Teacher Ratings: What Are Other Cities Doing?”, explains what a few cities are doing differently. From what I gathered it was a pay incentive to have the teachers be motivated to do better. However, there does not seem to be a good way set in place just yet. I just hope that by the time I become a teacher there will be a better system in place.

  7. Kristin Ipema

    This article talks about different ways in which a teacher can be evaluated. I would definitely agree with Dan when he says that a good teacher usually does not teach for the pay. I think that is very important to remember as teachers are being evaluated, I don’t really know how I feel about the idea of the merit system because although teachers are required to further their education and learning in order to go up the pay scale, who goes to say that this is going to make them more effective in their classroom or if they are actually reaching their students. Also I think that evaluating a teacher on based on the students test scores of standardize tests is definitely not a good way to evaluate. Some students are not good at taking tests, but this doesn’t have to do with the way the teacher is teaching. I think that I would want to be evaluated as a teacher knowing that the person observing me has spent a fair amount of time with me in the classroom observing my teaching methods, I also think that interviews with students and parents, as well has end of the year portfolios of rubric evaluations are a good idea. I don’t think it if fair to base an evaluation of a teacher just on test scores, with out even getting to know the teacher or their methods of teaching, because there can be many other factors that play into the way a students scores on a standardize test.

  8. Samantha Rowe

    I agree with you 100% that good teachers do not get into teaching for the pay. Good teachers get into teaching because it is their calling to help others learn. I do not feel that a teachers evaluation should be tied to student’s test scores. There are some student’s who do poorly just because they do not test well not because the teacher is a bad teacher. I am one of those students! I can listen to a teacher, take notes, and even meet with them after class for extra help and still do poorly on a test because I froze up. I think that part of a teachers evaluation should be based on the students opinions of the teacher. They are the ones spending the most time with the teacher.

  9. Allison Stoub

    This article is a great article on a big questions that many school districts question. Over the years the way of teacher assessment has changed. Some say for the better and other say for the worse. I agree that good teachers are in education not for pay, but to help students achieve greatness and become the best they can be. The four points made at the end of this article is great ways to assess a teacher. The first one, mini observations are great for principals or even other teachers to observe and give feedback, both positive and critiquing feedback for the teacher. The second is team curriculum unit planning. This is great for the teachers to get the same whole grade on the same page throughout the school year. The third one is team interim assessment work, and I am a little unsure as to what this all entails, but I am willing to learn more about. Finally is end of year rubric evaluations. This is a great way to receive feedback from students, who have been with the teacher on their good days and bad days. These four ways are great ways for teachers to be assessed.

  10. Bryan Engnell

    Tis article points out the truths about teacher evaluation. I also agree that teachers are not in teaching for the pay, especially as a future special education teacher. I feel evaluating teachers on students tests scores is a very shaky way to evaluate. Many students are not good test takers but excel in other areas of learning, myself for example. Its amazing to me how some principals will just fly through an evaluation just to get it over with. The four steps on evaluation mentioned at the end of the article are very intriguing to me. I like the way that sounds but the realistic and sad fact is that thats not how teacher evals are done and good teachers that have kids that have trouble in areas such as test taking get the short end of the stick. It scares me and i hope i won’t have to be in that type of situation in my future career.

  11. Kristen

    Teacher’s pay seems to be the “talk of the town” these days. Everyone has their own opinion on how teachers should be paid. Some might say it should be based on students’ test scores. Some might say it should be based on the years they have been teaching or the experience they have. I think that teacher’s pay should not be solely based on students’ scores or improvement, but they should take that into consideration. Becoming a teacher is something that a person should feel called to do. It shouldn’t have anything to do with money or an extrinsic reward like the article says. If a person is becoming a teacher for the right reasons, then they would want to continue their professional development. The purpose of teaching is to help the students learn, but teachers should also continue their learning as well. Teachers should be motivated to find the most effective ways to teach their classes. We all know that students learn differently, so taking multiple workshops or seminars could be beneficial for teachers. It also proves that they are serious about their job and teaching children. I don’t know how you would measure pay on a teacher’s motivation and passion for teaching, but I believe that would be the ultimate way of paying teachers.

  12. Victoria Stoklosa

    This is an extremely touchy topic for teachers and that is understandable. I feel that teachers do need to be evaluated for the job that they are doing but putting the children through these tests all of the time is not helping. Teachers end up teaching the students how to take tests and forget about other important information that should be taught. I think that students test scores should only count for a small portion of the teachers evaluation. I don’t think that its fair to a teacher of special education or one that’s in a lower income district if her students are not making as much progress as other students. There are many factors that go into a students progress and it does not all rest on the teacher’s teaching methods. A special education teacher may be working harder then any other teacher but still not able to get the same results as another teacher in a regular classroom. I don’t believe its fair to compare apples to oranges. I think that teachers should have several factors weighed when evaluating them. Some examples are continuing education, parent evaluations and input, collegue evaluations and input, administrative evaluations and input, student evaluations and input, and student portfolios with work throughout the year.

  13. Kayla Schoneveld

    Teacher evaluations are vital to a teacher’s career and can help teachers reevaluate their methods and teaching styles. What many teachers are evaluated on lately is their students test scores. Although test scores are important to look over during an evalution, I feel as though teachers need to be evaluated in a few different ways. One way that should be looked at, when it comes to a teacher’s career, is how motivated the students are to learn in the classroom. Many teachers in this day in age only teach to the state tests, which hinders students from enjoying their education because they are forced to cram information in their brains, in order to succeed on a state test. State tests are vital because they help schools stay accountable for how their students are doing and it also allows schools to reevaluate their curriculum every year. If a teacher only teaches to the test and his or her students do poorly, it may show how effective they are in the classroom. Teachers should teach in a way that students enjoy or allows students to grasp onto various concepts without feeling overwhelmed with the amount of learning they need to receive.

  14. Rebecca.calhoun

    I feel that this article does a good job of bring about a new way in evaluating teachers. I feel that observation by the principle multiple times is the best method. As stated in the article, mini observations over a period of time will really let a principle know how the class and the teacher is doing. Rather then just observing for a long period of time for one day. This will allow progress to be displayed. Teachers should be assessed, I feel, by the principle, other team teachers, and parents. This will bring in many different views and opinions that can help the teacher improve their teaching methods. Test scores should be apart of the evaluation, but not the entire evaluation.

  15. Hannah Sprague

    I think this is a really important topic. I would agree 100% when you say that teachers are not teaching for the pay. I do believe that teachers should be regularly assessed though. I believe that students test scores should be used in the process of assessing teachers. Test scores of students are important, but I do not think that the scores necessarily reflect the teachers ability to be a great teacher. I think a beneficial way to assess teachers is by looking at the students progress between this year and their previous year. They can examine areas the students struggled in last year and drill and work hard on teaching and mastering those particular areas for that particular student. Looking at the students growth and progress throughout the year is a beneficial way of assessing the teacher. I also think that peer reviews (teacher to teacher) would be very beneficial. Taking turns observing each other could prove to be a vital way to get constructive feedback for fellow teachers. I think that spontaneous observations should be made by the principle to evaluate exactly how well the teachers are doing in the classroom. I also think that teachers lesson plans and activities reflect the teachers skills and abilities to meet the students needs. Making sure, in observations and looking at lesson plans intermittently, will assure that the teachers are using up-to-date lesson plans. I think another way for a teacher to be assessed is through parental feedback. All parents are going to have an opinion and feel a certain way about a teacher which is why I do not think this tool of assessment should be the only one, but I think parents should have a role in this process. Along with parents, I think that students should have a say in this process as well. They are the ones who are with the teacher the most out of everyone and I think their ideas and comments could be very helpful. They could assess their teacher after every quarter or semester and the principle could review those comments and see what areas the teacher needs to work on and what areas the teacher is doing outstanding on.

  16. Brandi Asplund

    Teacher evaluations can be done in serveral different ways. Which is the best method? That’s the million dollar question. I know where I stand on merit based pay and it is my opinion that student achievement should not be the only defining factor for teacher pay. As Kristin pointed out in her earlier post, many factors play into to academic achievement. I agree that a class’s progress should be part of a teacher’s assessment but to base something solely on that is unfair. We can not allow teachers to be punished because a class does not test well or the students in a given class do not take ownership in their education. Should teachers be motivated by their class’s progress? Absolutely…progress and gains do matter but they can not be the sole deciding factor in whether a teacher is effective or not. As a future teacher, I want to be assessed on a combination of things. Numerous observations should be conducted in my classroom. How are my students doing academically? Am I meeting the standards necessary? What do my class’s test scores look like? Questions like these should be accompanied by interviews with my students, parents of my students and my colleagues. Overall, teacher assessment needs to include more than just numbers on a page.

  17. Amy Johnstone

    This article lists many great questions school districts, principals, and teachers need to ask themselves about teacher evaluations and assessments. The four pronged approach to improve teaching and learning for principals from Marshall’s new book is great. It gives principals a good plan on how to evaluate the teachers in their school. Putting together a plan for evaluation will lead to more things covered and better teaching and learning. If principals used this four pronged approach or something similar it would allow them to complete great evaluations, have time to get other tasks done, and make the teachers feel like an important part of the school. I do not think teachers should be evaluated on their students test scores alone because do we have any way of knowing if the students are motivated to do their best on the test or if the test measures the teachers ability and quality of teaching. Also, if we based teacher evaluations on student test scores it would shift the classroom focus to testing, which should not be the main focus. There are many more important thing teachers should be teaching their students rather than how to take a test well. Thank you for you insight on this big topic in education.

  18. Amy Johnstone

    This article lists many great questions school districts, principals, and teachers need to ask themselves about teacher evaluations and assessments. The four pronged approach to improve teaching and learning for principals from Marshall’s new book is great. It gives principals a good plan on how to evaluate the teachers in their school. Putting together a plan for evaluation will lead to more things covered and better teaching and learning. If principals used this four pronged approach or something similar it would allow them to complete great evaluations, have time to get other tasks done, and make the teachers feel like an important part of the school. I do not think teachers should be evaluated on their students test scores alone because do we have any way of knowing if the students are motivated to do their best on the test or if the test measures the teachers ability and quality of teaching. Also, if we based teacher evaluations on student test scores it would shift the classroom focus to testing, which should not be the main focus. There are many more important thing teachers should be teaching their students rather than how to take a test well. Thank you for your insight on this big topic in education.

  19. Anita Anderson

    Great article!! Evaluating a teacher on how well her students do on standardized tests is not the best indicator by any means. Tests do not show how hard a student tries in the classroom, nor they do not test the courage a student has to give a speech in front the school. From my personal experience, I was a terrible test taker because I would get test anxiety before taking a test. Teachers should not be judged on what they make if they make their students try the best they can. Evaluations of a teacher should be on multiple components not just on test scores. Test scores can be taken into consideration if they do not stand alone. If the teacher is meeting each and every student’s need, getting positive feedback from the students and their parents, recording if the student is making progress, and putting their heart and soul into every assignment they give, they should be evaluated with great success.

  20. Brigitte Haney

    I think that this article does a great job discussing teacher evaluations. The one thing that caught my attention was that teachers do not teach for pay, they teach to teach. This is a very true statement, I myself want to become a teacher to work with children and make a difference in their lives, not to make money. Teacher evaluations are very important, they show the progress of the teacher. Many different cities have different ideas of doing teacher evaluations. I think that part of the teachers evaluation should be done by the performance of the students. If they are not making progress then chances are that the teacher isn’t teaching very well. Although, teachers can’t just be evaluated by the students performance because everyone learns differently therefore the testing results can be bad, but the teacher might be a great teacher. I think that this is a very important issue and teachers need to be evaluated correctly.

  21. Melanie Lawrence

    I feel that this is a very important topic to discuss. I do not believe that teachers should be evaluated solely on their students’ test scores. I don’t think that it is a fair way to evaluate a teacher. There should definitely be more aspects involved in evaluation such as observations in the classroom. As a teacher, I expect to have someone observing me, at least a few times, while I am teaching my students and interacting with them. This is very important because no one can see how I teach my students or interact with them based on a standardized test score. However, I do think that it is important that teachers help their students make progress throughout the year. A test score will most likely be able to show you this information. I do believe that test scores should be looked at, but it should not be the only thing looked at for evaluating a teacher. I also think that the parents of my students should get to voice their opinion about me. Parents can tell whether or not a teacher is helping their child improve in school and out of school. The parents’ opinions should factor into a teacher’s evaluation. I also think that students and other teachers or colleagues should play a role in the evaluation. They can tell if the teacher is working hard and doing his/her best to help the students succeed. Overall, I think that teachers should be assessed using a variety of ways such as test scores, observations, parents’ opinions, and student’s and other colleague’s opinions as well.

  22. Hannah Schaap

    I believe that good teachers do not get into teaching for the pay. Teaching is something that a person must be passionate and dedicated to in order to be successful. I do believe the pay is important however, as a lot of people need to support families. I think that teachers should be regularly assessed to make sure that they are doing their jobs well. With tenure, a lot of teachers do not do the best they can because they know they cannot be fired. I think that maybe shortening the time, like perhaps a 5 year contract, would motivate teachers to continue to learn and provide for their students. This would ensure them some job security, however it also makes teachers be on their toes to make sure they are still doing a good job. I do not know all of the answers, but I do know that teaching is something that people do because they love it. Teacher’s salaries should not be based on how well the students perform on one test, but rather by how much they learned. This can be established by several tests, but every test is biased and therefore teacher salaries should not be solely based on test scores.

  23. Nate Hill

    Thank you for sharing this article. As I was reading this I couldn’t help but think of all the tests that I may not have wanted to take throughout my years of school. How fair is it to base a teachers pay on how well their students do on one test? There is so much more that goes into teaching than simply teaching kids how to do well on a specific test. Although these types of tests can show how much a student knows; teachers have a much bigger effect on their student’s lives than simply teaching the students how to pass a test.

  24. kaitlyn knudtson

    I think it is essential to evaluate teachers, however I don’t think that students’ test scores should be the judge of how good a teacher is. Teachers need to see how you thing they are doing and what they can improve on. There are many other ways that can successfully evaluate teachers. Seeing a teacher in the act of teaching; what she does with the students and how she reaches them is a good start on evaluating teachers. I think parents can play an important role in teacher evaluation. They’ve worked with you all year as you teach their child, parent input will be a great way to evaluate. You can’t base it all on parents input. Even talking to the students can be of help. More than just one thing, it is a combination of everything to evaluate well.
    I would observe the teacher in action multiple times over the year, one time will not give you a fair assessment of the teacher.

  25. kaitlyn knudtson

    In my opinion it is essential to evaluate teachers, however I do not think it should be left up to students’ test scores. There are many ways you can evaluate teachers. It is helpful for them to know how you think they are doing and what they can improve on. Observing teachers in the act of teaching is a great place to start. Getting parents input can be a huge help as well. The parents have worked with you the whole year as you teach their children and it would be helpful to know what they think of your teaching methods. It may also be helpful to ask the students how they think you are doing. More than just one thing to evaluate well, but a combination of everything the teacher does when teaching is necessary. You can’t observe just once, that is not a fair assessment for the teacher. Observing the teaching many times over the course of the year is another necessity.

  26. Jamie King

    When it comes to evaluating teachers, I think it is very difficult to get it right. The reason for this is the fact that there are so many variables involved. A teacher could be doing their job and teaching the material perfectly, but if the students do not care, or are not interested, the results will not show. Another thing is test scores. Does a good teacher only teach according to standardized testing? I do not think so. I think there are many more important things in life and in the subject areas than scoring well on a state test. Because of all these different variables and opinions, I think it is next to impossible to accurately assess a teacher. The only plausible way to do so is to have the principal sit in the classroom regularly and evaluate the teacher. Make sure the teacher has passion for the subject area and more importantly for the students.

  27. Diane Serbentas

    I believe that formal assessments of teachers should be made by the administrator at least once a year. I also think that administrators should be in the classrooms more. I do not agree with teachers being paid based on students test scores. I feel that it is unfair to base a teacher’s salary solely on that. A teacher can teach the students, and give them the appropriate tools to learn, however, parents also need to fulfill their role at home by staying on top of their kids, making sure homework is done etc. Teachers are not miracle workers. I was recently discussing this issue with my niece who is an 8th grade science teacher and she compared paying teachers according to student test scores to paying a dentist based on if his/her patient gets another cavity after their visit. The dentist can fill the cavity, but once the patient leaves the office, it is up to maintain their teeth, just as it is the parent’s responsibility to be a part of their child’s education and assist in their growing and learning.

  28. Jessica Colvin

    Thank you for the great article, this is a great additive to what we are learning in Prof. Post Special Education class on assessment. I believe that others are also responsible for a students education which includes the evaluation process. Based of a students assessment, reflects on many different aspects and not just on what the teacher is teaching. It is indeed possible that there is a teacher who does teach effectively in class but on an assessment may show otherwise. Teachers, councilors, parents, and the student need to all collaborate to find out what works best for the student to know what modifications or accommodations need to be made.
    Thanks again,
    Jessica Colvin

  29. Tara Zichterman

    I do not necessarily agree with the idea of evaluating teachers based off of their students score. I do think that it should be looked at, if a teacher has students that are not succeeding repeatedly, and then it should be a factor. There are many factors that play into the scores of students. If a teacher has a class with a large number of kids with disabilities, their scores are likely to be lower, and the teacher should not be penalized for that. I think teachers should be assessed on their dedication, and how well they work. Plus, a brief look into the continuing scores of the students over the years.

  30. Catie Meiner

    I am currently a student at Trinity Christian College studying to be a teacher so this article has much importance to me. I think it is important that teachers be evaluated. However, it is quite hard to find a system that really evaluates teachers on the way they should be evaluated. I think the only true way to evaluate a teacher is to observe them in their element of teaching. Now this means that they need to observed for more than simply an hour or two but I feel like this is the best way to evaluate a teacher. Evaluating off of test scores does not really show everything of what the teacher is doing. I know that it is hard to find a system that works for evaluating but maybe one day the education system will figure it out. Thanks for the article!
    -Catie Meiner

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