Press Release

RELEASE: The State of Teacher Evaluation Reform

Read the report.

Washington, D.C. — A report released today by Center for American Progress studied how state departments of education have implemented new teacher evaluation systems. The report found that many states lack the capacity to fully support the new systems, while others have scored some important successes and are on their way to building robust ways to support districts in teacher-evaluation work.

The Obama administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program triggered an unprecedented wave of state teacher evaluation reform across the country. Most of the recent analysis on this topic has focused on the design of the evaluation instruments or the implementation of the new evaluations by districts and schools. Little research has explored how states are managing and supporting the implementation of these reforms.

Entitled “The State of Teacher Evaluation Reform,” the report released today is based on comparative case studies of six states: Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. As “early adopters” of teacher-evaluation reform, these state education departments have undertaken different approaches to implementing the reforms. Authored by Patrick McGuinn, the paper identifies challenges and lessons that can be used to guide future reform efforts.

As states adjust to their new, more ambitious role in supporting teacher effectiveness statewide, they are shifting from a traditional focus on compliance and accountability to a support and service-delivery mode. The report finds that many state departments are struggling to determine how to fulfill both functions simultaneously and often lack the capacity to do so. The states’ solutions to these challenges could prove instructive for other state education departments.

When implementing teacher reforms, states have to grapple with different fiscal, political, statutory, and constitutional contexts. Some states are restructuring the state agency, creating units to address new human capital demand. Other states are relying on external personal and financial resources to build the necessary capacity. McGuinn concludes that the learning curve for local and state education agencies will be steep and mistakes will be made, but it is crucial that efforts are transparent and trust is established to ensure effective collaboration.

In order to meet the needs and demands of effective teacher-evaluation reform, McGuinn presents several recommendations for state education agencies:

  • State education agencies must assess existing capacity and define an appropriate role for their work with districts and schools. This will require that they reallocate existing staff and budgets to focus on new responsibilities and build capacity.
  • States must also think about where they can provide something that districts cannot. This will enable their support to render the most praise from districts. State education agencies should also tailor their implementation timelines to the unique needs and recourses of their particular state.
  • States need to think long term about how to produce a supply of administrators with the training, technical expertise, and field experience to address their current human-capital challenges around teacher evaluation reform.

Read the report: The State of Teacher Evaluation Reform: State Education Agency Capacity and the Implementation of New Teacher-Evaluation Systems by Patrick McGuinn

To speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Katie Peters at [email protected].


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