The Impact of Teacher Evaluation: Part 3

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How often are teachers improving after observation, as a result of reflection and dialogue, rather than by result/number?

A research project on education reform states that “teaching is complex work that cannot be captured by rubric scores or numbers. The implementation of numerical sorting schemes for teacher evaluation has led to the de-professionalization of teaching and discouragement within the profession.”

In this blog, the key question asked is: what form of accountability is driving teachers out of the classroom?

 In a Network for Public Education survey, 61% of respondents noted that the use of student standardized test scores in teacher evaluations had a negative impact on their relationships with their colleagues citing reasons such as forced collaboration and competition.

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 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.

The third of six headline, the report recommends this:

We recommend that the observation process focus on improving instruction—resulting in reflection and dialogue between teacher and observer—the result should be a narrative, not a number.”

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Image: Shutterstock

Report Findings:

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

“An additional component includes measures such as peer or principal observations, student and/or parent surveys, and teacher attendance … scores allegedly provide the quantitative, objective data needed to evaluate teachers and principals, and frameworks or rubrics are intended to “objectify” the observation process, which by its very nature, is subjective.”

Before this evaluation model, we would choose a class period to be observed in. Our admin would come in for 30 or so minutes and we would meet afterwards. Now we have to do a pre-conference to discuss what we will be teaching, how we will teach it, what indicators they will be looking for. Then admin stays for the whole class. If we don’t state the learning goal, do a scale, celebrate success correctly, and on and on… we get docked. It has created the lowest morale I have seen in my 19 years of teaching. When you hear teachers talk about their evaluations, you will hear them discuss how it is all a show on observation day. Many teachers write a script to make sure they say the right things.”


In the third of six recommendations, “the observation process focus on improving instruction—resulting in reflection and dialogue between teacher and observer—the result should be a narrative, not a number” is highlighted.

… most teachers and administrators had positive opinions about the new system, especially the observation process. Overwhelming majorities of teachers and administrations believe the observation process supports teacher growth, identifies areas of strength and weaknesses, and provides opportunities for reflection. Teachers remain apprehensive, however, on the inclusion of student growth metrics in their evaluations.

(Teacher Evaluation in Chicago: Differences in Observation and Value-Added Scores by Teacher, Student, and School Characteristics. Jiang, J.Y. & Sporte, S.E. 2016)

Evaluation that Sabotages Teacher Growth:

The emphasis on assigning and justifying ratings has left little time, resources, or expertise to plant and nourish cultures in schools that give teachers the autonomy to chart their own professional growth.

Instead, principals are asked to use observations to make diagnoses of teacher weaknesses, and then teachers are prescribed trainings as if they were sick patients getting doses of medicine rather than the ongoing, non-threatening, in the-moment, coaching necessary to grow professionally. With the new evaluation systems, teacher behaviour is monitored to make sure the medicine worked and the prescriptions are followed. This removes professional growth from the teachers’ control, and turns it into something managed from above, with the constant threat of termination attached. This undermines motivation, and turns “professional growth” into an exercise of pleasing the principal. Ultimately, the evaluation process should be decoupled from teacher professional development.

Although it is the role of an observer to provide clear feedback to teachers, that feedback should not manage the details of an individual’s professional growth. When evaluators identify teachers who are in serious need of help, then an improvement plan or referral to a program such as Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) is a more appropriate response. But teachers who are meeting their obligation to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students should have a strong role in driving their own professional growth, within the context of school and collegial needs.

The Sutton Trust recommends this for teacher-evaluation:

Developmental and evaluative classroom observations should be carried out separately, to promote honest feedback. It may make sense for peers to be involved in developmental observations but those for appraisal purposes being conducted by members of the school leadership team. There should be clear standards and protocols for observations, perhaps in a school handbook. (The Sutton Trust, 2013.)

Testing Teachers: What works best for teacher evaluation and appraisal The Sutton Trust

Image: Testing Teachers: What works best for teacher evaluation and appraisal (The Sutton Trust)


  1. How often has observation genuinely improved a teacher’s work in the classroom?
  2. When last did this happen to you?
  3. How often do teachers focus on the outcome of a numerical-based observation, rather than the developmental dialogue?
  4. How valid is the observational model in your school?
  5. How valid are the judgement(s) of the observer(s)?

Please leave your answers in the comments section below.

The Series:

  1. You can read part 1 here: What form of accountability is driving teachers out of the classroom?
  2. Part 2: How often are teachers given the time to work collaboratively for professional development?


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3 thoughts on “The Impact of Teacher Evaluation: Part 3

  1. So right. At last my school refuses to give teachers a grade as that’s all we listen to. Great wisdom in engaging in genuine dialogue with the teacher leading the reflection and the targets.

  2. The grading based focus is built on the foundations of a deficit model which encourages reflection on what one cannot do rather than what has gone well and how that may be further improved. Teachers do not teach primarily for monetary gain nor to attain good (whatever that means) grades. They teach young people to promote a love of learning and their subject. Proof …. ask a teacher to explain in detail their PM targets …. when the tumbleweed settles, ask them if they would rather pursue and develop something in which they feel passionate, in a collaborative dialogue with someone they trust to be supportive (coach) based upon a strength based model – you won’t be able to shut them up!

  3. Lesson observations in my previous college were nothng more than a complete farce, delivered by inept personnel. A colleague of mine was downgraded due to a pillar being in their room, being cited as not taking that into consideration when planning the layout of the room. The pillar was at the back of the room,away from all the students.
    A member of the quality assurance team told me of an exercise he ran with 9 teachers who all viewed a recorded lesson and were to grade it using the same criteria. In the same lesson, ratings range from 1-outstanding to 4- special measures. Lesson observations, in my experience and now entrenched opinion, exists as a very effective tool for getting rid of teachers who’s face does not fit

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