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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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Hearing Highlights Ways Better Teacher Evaluation Systems Help Improve Student Performance

The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held a hearing to explore the innovative methods states and school districts are using to evaluate and promote teacher effectiveness. The hearing marks a renewal of the committee’s efforts to address the challenges facing K-12 schools by focusing on one of the most fundamental components to student success: teacher quality.

In his opening remarks, Rep. Rokita acknowledged the shortfalls of current elementary and secondary education law, stating, “No Child Left Behind’s rigid ‘Highly Qualified Teacher’ provisions require educators to have a bachelor’s degree, hold a state certification or license, and be able to demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter they plan to teach. That all sounds great in theory, but in reality it meant schools were forced to value an educator’s credentials over his or her ability to effectively and successfully teach our children.”

Relying on credentials does not enable school leaders to accurately measure whether teachers are actually having a positive effect on students in the classroom, and it also leads to frustration for educators. Emanuel Harper, a French teacher at Herron High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, described his experience at a previous school without a teacher evaluation system. “Without having an objective account of my practice with substantive measurements and indicators, I was left to tease out my performance based on what I ‘felt,’” Mr. Harper stated. “It was unsustainable.” 

Fortunately, a growing number of states and school districts are implementing innovative evaluation programs to better recruit, support and measure effective educators.

In 2011, Tennessee became one of the first states to implement a comprehensive student-outcomes-based evaluation system, known as the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM). Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of the Knox County Schools explained the incorporation of student performance data into the new system puts “a premium not only on good teaching, but also on student learning.” As a result, he said, “No longer is it acceptable for a teacher to say, ‘Well I taught a great lesson, but my students just didn’t learn it.’”

Indiana’s General Assembly recently called on school districts to develop unique teacher evaluation systems. Mr. Harper said the move “establishes higher standards for teacher performance, basing effectiveness not on degrees and years in a classroom, but on composites like student outcomes and observations.” At Herron High School, Mr. Harper added, educators are held accountable by a rigorous evaluation system that incorporates “a constant loop of evaluation, critical feedback, and actionable next steps.” This ensures the school is able to recruit and retain top talent to help meet its overriding objective of “educating and preparing all students for college.”

According to Dr. Steve Cantrell, Co-Director of the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, research confirms teacher evaluation systems based on multiple measures are a superior way to gauge teacher quality. “Preliminary MET findings demonstrated that three measures – student assessments, classroom observations, and student surveys – helped predict whether teachers would raise the performance of future groups of students,” he said. “Indeed, the combination of these measures does a far better job predicting which teachers will succeed in raising student performance than master’s degrees and years of teaching experience…Better evaluation and feedback systems are essential to improving teaching and learning.”

As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce renews its efforts to reauthorize the nation’s elementary and secondary education law, empowering states and school districts to develop their own teacher evaluation systems based in part on student achievement will remain a top priority.

To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of today’s hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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