Every Student Succeeds Act: Teacher Evaluation Policies

This is part of a series of blog posts by the KDP Public Policy Committee that examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators.

In the past five years, many teachers experienced a shift in how they were evaluated. Instead of evaluations based on administrator observations and artifacts, the evaluations in many states began reflecting how those teachers’ students performed on standardized tests. The catalyst for this recent change: By the end of the 2013–2014 school year, states that received a waiver from meeting the proficiency standards of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) were required to adopt teacher evaluation policies based on student achievement. Waiver requests were submitted by 45 states, and 43 of those requests were approved.

ESSA Changes

However, with the passage of ESSA, states no longer have to comply with these policies. ESSA forbids the Secretary of Education to force states to set up specific teacher evaluation policies (pp. 44–45), including the waiver policy previously used. Also, it encourages states to develop “high-quality evaluation tools, such as classroom observation rubrics” and provide training to school leaders on “how to accurately differentiate performance, provide useful and timely feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decision making about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions” (pp. 161–162).

The big stipulation, though, is that if Title II funds are used to create a new school evaluation plan, then this new plan needs to be “based in part on evidence of student achievement, which may include student growth” and “multiple measures of educator performance” (p. 169).

Looking to the Future

It will be interesting to see how this change affects state evaluation policies. Will states that changed their evaluation policies to fit the waiver make the change back, or will they continue to base their evaluation policies on student achievement? To complicate matters, this question comes at a time when many state education departments are experiencing staffing and budget issues. States facing staff cuts may find it more difficult to implement the changes they would like to make while still overseeing the normal operations of a state education department.

For specific examples of how states are managing the shift from NCLB policies to those of ESSA, see this KDP webpage tracking ESSA implementation information state by state.

Call to Action

Join this week’s ESSA discussion on KDP Global about these questions:

  1. How do you feel the ESSA will impact teacher evaluations?
  2. What is your state doing with its teacher evaluation policy?

mason_profile-imageDr. Curtis Mason is an assistant professor of education and KDP chapter counselor at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. He serves on the KDP Public Policy Committee.

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