Criteria for an Effective Teacher Evaluation System

By Linda Darling-Hammond
  1. Teacher evaluation should be based on professional teaching standards and should be sophisticated enough to assess teaching quality across the continuum of development, from novice to expert teacher.
  2. Evaluations should include multifaceted evidence of teacher practice, student learning, and professional contributions that are considered in an integrated fashion, in relation to one another and to the teaching context. Any assessments used to make judgments about students' progress should be appropriate for the specific curriculum and students the teacher teaches.
  3. Evaluators should be knowledgeable about instruction and well trained in the evaluation system, including the process of how to give productive feedback and how to support ongoing learning for teachers. As often as possible, and always at critical decision-making junctures (e.g., tenure or renewal), the evaluation team should include experts in the specific teaching field.
  4. Evaluation should be accompanied by useful feedback, and connected to professional development opportunities that are relevant to teachers' goals and needs, including both formal learning opportunities and peer collaboration, observation, and coaching.
  5. The evaluation system should value and encourage teacher collaboration, both in the standards and criteria that are used to assess teachers' work and in the way results are used to shape professional learning opportunities.
  6. Expert teachers should be part of the assistance and review process for new teachers and for teachers needing extra assistance. They can provide the additional subject-specific expertise and person-power needed to ensure that intensive and effective assistance is offered and that decisions about tenure and continuation are well grounded.
  7. Panels of teachers and administrators should oversee the evaluation process to ensure it is thorough and of high quality, as well as fair and reliable. Such panels have been shown to facilitate more timely and well-grounded personnel decisions that avoid grievances and litigation. Teachers and school leaders should be involved in developing, implementing, and monitoring the system to ensure that it reflects good teaching well, that it operates effectively, that it is tied to useful learning opportunities for teachers, and that it produces valid results.

Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she is the faculty director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the founding director of the School Redesign Network. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and a member of the National Academy of Education. This article is adapted, with permission of Teachers College Press, from Linda Darling-Hammond, Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What Really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement. Copyright 2013 by Teachers College, Columbia University. All rights reserved. The book was inspired by the Good Schools Seminar Series, supported by the Albert Shanker Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization endowed by the American Federation of Teachers to promote excellence in public education.

Reprinted from American Educator, Spring 2014

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