"Well-designed, and well-executed surveys can be an invaluable resource, but only insofar as the results lead to visible changes to the teacher evaluation process."
States and districts across the country have set out to implement new teacher evaluation systems in an effort to improve teacher quality and raise student achievement. With teachers, administrators, and entire systems in a state of transition, there is no better time to capture and leverage critical feedback from those on the ground.
A new report released by the Aspen Institute and the Parthenon Group addresses the importance of incorporating teacher input throughout this process. The authors highlight the practicality of targeted teacher surveys, which can be used to efficiently and cost-effectively gather relevant information. By assessing the quality of feedback and support provided to teachers, districts can foster continuous improvement at the individual, school, and system levels.
Much attention has been paid to how the new evaluations will inform employment and tenure decisions. However, with the vast majority of teachers falling in the middle range of evaluation ratings, the new system will likely prove most valuable as a professional development tool. Teacher surveys can be particularly useful in leveraging this new resource, by providing information on implementation fidelity, frequency of feedback, and quality of support. With this comprehensive data on hand, districts must then act on the survey results to continuously improve the systems in place.
The New York City Department of Education used this strategy to improve the execution of its new teacher evaluation system and provide more targeted support to teachers. In a pilot program that grew to include approximately 200 schools and 9,000 teachers, the district solicited teacher feedback through several channels, including surveys, town halls, and focus groups. The surveys were administered three times a year to gather information on the evaluation system’s implementation and on the levels of support provided to teachers. After discovering varying levels of fidelity of implementation and perceived fairness, additional training was provided to evaluators to ensure ratings would be more standard across-the-board. Surveys also revealed that additional targeted supports were needed to help teachers improve, which led to a redesign of the professional development programs.
Well-designed, and well-executed surveys can be an invaluable resource, but only insofar as the results lead to visible changes to the teacher evaluation process. With the ultimate goal of raising the quality of instruction, districts should seek to engage their teachers in the new process and foster a culture of openness and collaboration. Continuous improvement of evaluation and feedback systems will allow teachers to achieve their potential in order to help students realize theirs.