All Students Need Equitable Access to Good Teachers

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No school will raise student achievement and close its achievement gaps until it attracts, develops, and retains effective teachers. To do this, schools must first be able to identify which teachers are effective. Local policymakers across America are now working to develop evaluation systems that gauge teacher efficacy more accurately than do current systems. Three key factors will determine how useful these systems will be in improving teacher quality: design, implementation, and use in decision making.  “Measuring Teacher Effectiveness,” a recent report by ConnCAN, 50CAN, and Public Impact, examines 10 leading teacher evaluation systems through the prism of these three factors.

The report provides details on evaluation systems in three states (Delaware, Rhode Island, and Tennessee), five districts (Hillsborough County, Fla.; Houston, Texas; New Haven, Conn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Washington, D.C.), one charter management organization (Achievement First), and one teacher-preparation program (Relay Graduate School of Education).

None of these systems is perfect, but all are moving in the right direction by including student growth as one of several measures to gauge teacher efficacy and by using evaluation results to inform professional development and personnel decisions. However, one missing element from almost all these systems is a focus on using evaluation results to ensure that students have equitable access to effective teachers. Research shows that low-income students and students of color don’t receive their fair share of our most effective teachers and receive more than their fair share of our least effective ones. Evaluation systems can help us figure out who our stronger and weaker teachers are, but these systems won’t help close achievement gaps unless attention is paid to which students are being assigned to which teachers.

In the report, only Rhode Island is identified as using teacher evaluation results to inform student assignment: The state plans to implement a policy in which no student will have a low-performing teacher two years in a row. More local policymakers need to commit to using results of their new evaluation systems to ensure that all students have equal access to great teachers.

—Melissa Tooley