The Impact of Teacher Evaluation

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What form of accountability is driving teachers out of the classroom?

Teachers choose the teaching profession because of their love of children and their subject; or at least we hope so!

Respondents [said] that meetings with administrators and other “experts” to discuss data have replaced teacher-led collaboration.

Evaluating Impact:

The Network for Public Education – an advocacy group (in Arizona, USA) whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen the school system – commissioned a study and survey in the winter of 2015 to learn more about the impact of teacher evaluation on the education profession. The survey asked educators about the impact of evaluation on their work, their students, and the culture of their schools.

Over the course of a few weeks, 2,964 teachers and principals from 48 states responded.

One the 6 headlines recommends this:

We recommend an immediate halt to the use of test scores as any part of teacher evaluation.”

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Comparisons to UK:

In a series of six posts, I’d like to share the key findings and consider the implications and/or differences to the system in the United Kingdom.


In the UK and USA, far too many educators are leaving the classroom.

Headlines report teacher shortages in nearly every sector and area of the UK and USA. One factor reported in almost every story, is the discouragement teachers feel from a reform movement – highlighted by Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons and in the book, Flip The System by Jelmer Evers and Rene Kneyber.

‘Education is threatened on a global scale by forces of neoliberalism, through high stakes accountability, privatization and a destructive language of learning. In all respects, a GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) has erupted from international benchmark rankings such as PISA …’


Report Findings:

The demotivation and pressure on teachers dramatically increased with the inclusion of student test scores in teacher evaluations, with some USA states using them to account for as much as 50% of evaluation scores. How much of this is true in performance related pay in the United Kingdom?

When combined with frameworks, rubrics, and high-stake consequences, the nature of teacher evaluation has dramatically changed, and narratives from educators in all sectors say that it has changed for the worse.

“More time is spent on data than actual collaboration of strategies. Professional development is usually irrelevant to teaching, [but is] relevant for data.”


In the first of six recommendations, “the use of student test scores for evaluating teachers is fundamentally invalid and unreliable” is highlighted.

It has a damaging effect on the relationships between teachers and students, and between teachers and administrators. It incentivizes “teaching to the test,” thereby narrowing the rich curriculum that our students deserve. We recommend an immediate halt to the use of test scores as any part of teacher evaluation.

On page 9 ‘Teaching to the Tests’ the report highlights that:

Teachable moments are viewed as wasted time if they do not improve test scores, even when these moments are often the lessons most meaningful to students.”


  1. How similar are these headlines for teachers working in the UK? In other parts of the world?
  2. Are teachers working in high-stakes accountability? If so, share an example in the comment section below.
  3. Should teacher performance be evaluated? If so, what should be evaluated, why and how?
  4. How does performance related pay operate in your school?
  5. How much of any decision for you to progress, rests on tests and data, or has the decision considered a wider range of evidence?
  6. Is this decision reliable and/or valid?

Please leave your answers in the comments section below.


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6 thoughts on “The Impact of Teacher Evaluation

  1. Hi Ross,

    I shall read more into this report when I get a chance, but in the meantime my responses to the questions that you’ve posed:

    How similar are these headlines for teachers working in the UK? In other parts of the world?
    Are teachers working in high-stakes accountability? If so, share an example in the comment section below.

    The shortages headlines are similar, of course. I don’t often see the argument that using test scores/grades/results is a bad thing – I mean, it’s out there and people do talk about it being a negative, but I haven’t seen it at the top of many people’s lists. Inevitably because of the nature of the British education system and having so many high-stakes exams, results play a significant part in a school. It is of great importance to parents, who look to applying to the ‘good’ schools in an area where the 5A*-C is high (whilst some parents do look at Value Added of some kind because they understand what it means). It is of great importance to school leaders because of the importance to parents, and so it becomes part of the Appraisal/PM Target agenda. The best school leaders will recognise that putting teachers in a place where this type of accountability exists can be counter-productive; as has been outlined in the post it can narrow the curriculum and have teachers and leaders focused on results and teaching to the test. The best middle leaders can work their way around this and have their departments/pastoral areas focused on more important things, but it’s an unnecessary hurdle.

    It’s pretty bloomin’ simple. Targets based on results are pointless, counter-productive, and are not what motivates teachers to teach well. Without them, are teachers going to teach any worse? No. On the contrary, teachers won’t have the constraints that it places on them so can teach properly, with a bit of freedom and professional trust.

    Should teacher performance be evaluated? If so, what should be evaluated, why and how?

    Hmm. Leaders and teachers in schools should be aware of what aspects of teaching are known to have the most impact on learning; they should have appropriate training to be the best they can be. All leaders should be confident when walking into a lesson to know what aspects are brilliant and what could do with a bit of work. There should be the opportunity for these sorts of professional discussions to take place, but there needn’t be the historical formality of PM observations. What value do they have? A culture whereby teachers share and provide each other with feedback, responding to it and improving is what must be developed and should be done so in a positive and encouraging environment.

    I’ve sort of avoided the question. No PM observations – instead, some approach to observing others and providing constructive supportive feedback. Leaders and teachers should be trained so that they understand when there are deeper concerns with student progress in certain lessons or with certain teachers and there should be structures in place to support those teachers and students.

    How does performance related pay operate in your school?

    Target 1 – Student Performance. Pick 3 classes, try and get them their target grades. Very specific criteria for whether you are Exceptional, Met, Not Met, or Significantly Not Met (or whatever it is called, I don’t even know what the bottom one is).

    Target 2 – School Improvement. A specific T+L area for the whole school is targeted for improvement and you decide upon several ways in which you can work towards ensuring this is done. If a leader of some kind, this is often more related to where you are aiming to get your department/pastoral area up to.

    Target 3 – Personal Target. Linked to personal aims (e.g. Develop towards Assistant Headship), including a sub-target for a personal aim towards a specific Teacher Standard that you feel needs development.

    Target 4 – TLR Target. For me, it means I have to get all the results Good or better for KS3 Science, KS4 Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Single Science, Core Science, Additional Science, KS5 Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Easy, right?

    How much of any decision for you to progress, rests on tests and data, or has the decision considered a wider range of evidence?
    Is this decision reliable and/or valid?

    50% of the decision is made on data. There’s a seriously robust set of specific criteria that has been drawn up by our Deputy Head who deals with data, so it is very clear whether you are on course for it or not. You have to hit Good in order to progress to the next stage (if you hit Exceptional in enough categories then you can skip a year on the pay scale). No decision about data is ever particularly reliable or valid because it can be twisted in so many ways and there are just so many factors at play. We need to go back to remembering that we have human beings in front of us and deal with each of them individually, using data to help recognise where progress is being made or not and supporting them where necessary. It shouldn’t play a part in our pay.

  2. I am not a teacher by profession but am passionate about education. Education has been become so ‘stream lined’. The quest for efficiency has produced a huge blind spot where the needs and value of the learner is completely overlooked at a huge expense. We have the resources to flip the system. Question is if policy makers have the humility and will to do so.

  3. In my opinion. teacher performances should be evaluated. This will help them to identify their weak points and focus on that area for improvement which will ultimately benefits students too. We can also know their effectiveness and competence. But, the evaluation process should be fair and balanced. Feedback from student, parent, colleagues , administration will surely help in evaluation process.

  4. “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” (Einstein)

    If teacher performance is to be measured effectively and fairly, then measurements will need to be developed scientifically for the positive changes effected by teachers in improving self esteem; self confidence; resilience; autonomy; determination; focus; critical thinking; independence; interdependence; communication; citizenship; leadership; creativity; empathy; self regulation; and, dare I say, happiness. I am sure there are a few more that could and should be added and they are all of significance but, where are they measured and how?

    Of course teacher performance should be evaluated, but often what managers are really referring to by default is teacher underperformance. Let’s be honest, most teachers (when pushed) cannot clearly articulate or even remember their PM targets – bar the one (set by a manager) with all the data driven outcomes which, in turn, probably links to the managers target. If this resonates with colleagues, surely we need a shift in focus from what is an ineffective system of performance evaluation to one which embodies the model we espouse to children in which the final outcome/target is seriously important but the journey towards it ought to be filled with heutagogical challenge, professional reflection and celebration.

    In short, if we do not feel the current system accurately reflects the FULL impact of a teachers performance, why are we still tweaking the poor old dead creature. Doing the same thing over and over again gets the same result doesn’t it?

    Just my meanderings but I would put money on a system which deeply involved teachers in professional development driven by their own desire to improve, research or design having a significantly enhanced impact.

    1. Have done quite a fair bit of work on performance management. Do agree with your comments. I wonder if we could move to a system where teachers could set their own target and frame this as a ‘research question’? This leaves the task open-ended and the possibilities to discover and report back at endless.

      1. Already, that makes me excited! Teachers are brilliant collaborators too so why not offer the option of a joint or small group research brief? I realise this would make the PM side of things complicated but, hey ho, there’s a long way to go before this process becomes a. relevant and b. productive (for both learners and teachers).

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