Approved by the NCTE Executive Committee April 21, 2012
“For more than two decades, policymakers have undertaken many and varied reforms to improve schools, ranging from new standards and tests to redesigned schools, new curricula and new governance models. One important lesson from these efforts is the repeated finding that teachers are the fulcrum determining whether any school initiative tips toward success or failure. Every aspect of school reform depends on highly skilled teachers for its success.” — Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010
Teachers matter. Families, teachers in early childhood through secondary classrooms, school administrators, professors of teacher education, and other supporters of our nation’s schools understand the importance of excellent teachers. Between 2004 and 2011 NCTE published a series of documents identifying the literacy knowledge and pedagogical skills that contribute to teaching excellence in the English language arts, and affirming the right of every child to a highly skilled teacher. We assert that teaching is a complex process requiring tremendous knowledge and significant ongoing learning, and as a professional organization, we dedicate our efforts to ensuring the quality of teachers as they engage in the important work of educating our children. We also fully realize that such work must be evaluated in ways that reflect the complexities of teaching and learning across many contexts (rural, urban, and suburban schools, linguistically, culturally, and intellectually diverse classrooms). We are committed to processes of teacher evaluation that simultaneously lead to increased teacher effectiveness and improved student learning.
Proponents of teacher evaluation come at the process with two different purposes in mind:
Test-Based Accountability: On the one hand are those reformers who emphasize teacher accountability as measured by students’ performance on tests. They seek to reform teaching by expelling ineffective teachers from the profession based solely on student test scores. They demand that school leaders rely on test results as the sole or most influential method of teacher evaluation. NCTE recognizes the urgency that these critics feel to evaluate, compare, and respond to seemingly low-performing schools when tests are used to measure performance.
Professional-Development-Based Accountability: In contrast are those who advocate teacher evaluation as a means to support teachers as they develop their skills and learn more about students in order to meet their needs and the broader goals of education (McGreal, 1983 and 2000; Danielson, 1996 and 2000; Darling-Hammond, 1990; Stiggens, 1988). Only through understanding the learners in their classrooms and the continual study of their subject matter as well as instructional strategies do teachers achieve excellence. In this point of view, teacher evaluation systems have the potential to assist all teachers in their professional growth, helping them to match their efforts to high standards of practice that have been established by the teaching profession. This assistance includes helping teachers exit the profession if it is concluded that they are insufficiently prepared for or not interested in the deeply demanding responsibility of teaching. In this view, teacher evaluation plays an important role in the overall professional development of teachers at all stages of their careers. In effect, people who emphasize professional growth seek to reform teaching by building the expertise of all teachers through improved communication with master teachers, sustained professional development, and individual study specific to their students.
NCTE believes that multifaceted teacher evaluation is a significant component for student, teacher, and school improvement and advocates strongly for a system that emphasizes professional growth. English teachers must continually study their subject along with the craft of teaching in their efforts to make learning happen.
NCTE recognizes that quality assurance is an important responsibility of school leaders and accepts that a successful evaluation system must assist school leaders in making major personnel decisions such as retention, tenure, and dismissal. Still, it firmly believes that an overemphasis on accountability rooted in testing sets the bar much too low for school improvement and leads to a curriculum too heavily devoted to test preparation. This misplaced emphasis puts an increasing number of already vulnerable students at risk of dropping out and results in alienating and losing many good teachers. Student test scores are unreliable indicators of teacher performance and should play a very small role in evaluation. School districts that use test scores to evaluate teachers must acknowledge their potential unreliability and guard against unfortunate consequences on curriculum, students, and teachers. While value-added models (VAM) of teacher assessment may offer some useful information, researchers consistently identify flaws in the methodology and discourage its use in making high-stakes personnel decisions (Baker et al, 2010; Newton et al, 2010; Schochet and Chang, 2010).
Acknowledging the dual purposes of evaluation of teachers—professional development and accountability—NCTE here outlines the characteristics of a fair and effective teacher evaluation system. In order for teacher evaluation efforts to be fair and effective, they must be practical, useful, meaningful, and ethical. Adhering to the belief statements below will ensure that these traits are an integral part of such efforts.
Characteristics of Fair and Effective English/Language Arts
Teacher Evaluation Systems
A successful system of teacher evaluation is based on a comprehensive review of effective teaching behaviors. Such a review identifies the knowledge, dispositions, pedagogical skills, and other commitments to learning characteristic of highly skilled teachers.
A successful system relies on a wide range of evidence, including classroom observations, teacher-developed materials, student products and performances, student feedback, and quantitative measures of student achievement.
A successful system aligns quality assurance purposes with professional growth. It is useful and practical for teachers and evaluators. It promotes professional learning, encourages teacher agency and is differentiated for teachers based on their professional needs.
A successful system is fair and nonthreatening. It is based on clearly defined standards of teacher performance and is implemented by well-trained and ethical evaluators who follow common procedures. Evaluators consider the context of evaluation and promote a culture of inquiry.
Baker, Eva L.; Barton, Paul E.; Darling-Hammond, Linda; Haertel, Edward; Ladd, Hellen F.; Linn, Robert L.; Ravitch, Diane; Rothstein, Richard; Shavelson, Richard J.; and Shepard, Lorrie A. “Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing #278, August 29, 2010.
Danielson, Charlotte. (1996) Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. ASCD.
Darling-Hammond, Linda, and Millman, Jason (ED). (1990). The new handbook of teacher evaluation: Assessing elementary and secondary teachers. Sage Publications, Inc.
Darling-Hammond, Linda. “Evaluating teacher effectiveness: How teacher performance assessments can measure and improve teaching.” Center for American Progress, 2010.
McGreal, Tom. (1983). Successful teacher evaluation. ASCD, Alexandria, VA.
McGreal, Thomas, and Danielson, Charlotte. (2001) Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice. ASCD.
Newton, Xiaoxia A.;Darling-Hammond, Linda; Hartel, Edward; and Thomas, Ewart. (2010). “Value-added modeling of teacher effectiveness: Exploration of stability across models and contexts.” Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 18 (23).
Schochet, Peter, and Chang, Hanley S. “Error rates in measuring teacher and school performance based on student test score gains” (NCEE 2010-4004).
Stiggens, Richard. (1988) The case for commitment to teacher growth: Research on teacher evaluation. SUNY.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.