Education Reform: Teacher Performance Management Systems
March 2012
Report 377

Key Findings

Teacher Performance Management Systems An effective teacher performance management system encompasses a foundational theory of accountability for results, an objective evaluation process, rewards for high performers, relevant professional development and interventions to assist low performers, and separation from service of the poorest performers.

A number of school districts across the nation have experimented with merit pay, either for individual teachers or for teams or school buildings. To date, there has been little evidence that merit pay programs have led to improvement in student performance.

Teacher Evaluations, in the Past and in the Future When tenure, seniority, and collective bargaining control management decisions, teacher evaluations have little impact. While teachers who have been prepared and evaluated in traditional ways are generally comfortable with that approach, it has not been effective in weeding out ineffective teachers.

Policymakers and parents are increasingly demanding that teachers be evaluated using measures of student achievement gains, and Michigan now requires school districts to conduct annual teacher evaluations that include student achievement growth as a significant factor.

Public Act 102 of 2011 created the Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness to provide tools that improve teacher effectiveness. By April 30, 2012 the Council is to submit a report that includes a student growth and assessment tool, a state evaluation tool for teachers, and a state evaluation tool for school administrators.

Standardized Testing No Child Left Behind required increased standardized testing, providing the basis for systems that link student growth with individual teachers. Teacher evaluation systems based on student achievement require agreement on curricula and academic content at each level, though not all classes have a standardized curriculum.

Michigan is developing assessments in reading, math, and writing for students in kindergarten through second grade and tests for science and social studies for grades 3 through 12. The state is also participating in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium to develop a testing tool that includes more subjects and more grades and which generates faster testing results using an online testing process. Results are not expected until 2014-15.

Decisions will be required on whether to accommodate measures of poverty and other factors in setting standards for expected student achievement.

Factors related to increased reliance on standardized testing include “teaching to the test,” less latitude for teachers, and increased pressure on teachers to cheat. A number of school districts across the nation that have increased the importance of standardized testing to teacher and school evaluations have experienced cheating scandals. As Michigan increases the stakes associated with teacher and school evaluations, it should ensure proper controls are in place to minimize the risk of cheating.

Classroom Observations Classroom observation of teachers by trained observers is a valuable component of evaluations, and should remain part of any evaluation system.

Use of Teacher Evaluations Public Act 205 of 2009 required Michigan school districts to develop, implement, and adopt performance evaluation systems for all teachers by September 1, 2011. Measures of teacher effectiveness will increasingly be used for granting tenure, setting salary levels, assignment, professional development requirements, and dismissal.

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