Despite initial concerns about score inflation, data demonstrates downward curve among mean summative scores in the last five years

MALVERN, PA — June 12, 2019 — The Frontline Research & Learning Institute today announced the release of Bending Toward Accuracy: How Teacher Evaluations Are Evolving. The research brief shares analysis of a panel study of summative educator evaluation data between 2013 and 2018. The data represents 724 districts of varying sizes across 30 states and locales in the U.S. and suggests that educator evaluations are becoming a more accurate reflection of performance over time.

“Providing educators with feedback that helps them improve is one of the most important ways we support great teaching and learning, but often, the contentious conversation around evaluation has given states and districts pause,” says Candice McQueen, Chief Executive Officer of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and former commissioner of education for the state of Tennessee. “It is encouraging to see that evaluations are becoming more accurate reflections of students’ learning, but we still have room to get better. Rather than shifting our focus elsewhere, we should stay committed to human capital reform, invest in evaluators and systems that provide timely and actionable feedback to teachers, and support educators as we all continuously improve.”

The report analyzes data spanning the two years before the passage of ESSA in December 2015, when ESEA waivers drove most states’ policies as well as the three years during the transition to compliance with the new law. The analysis includes districts that participated in between one and five full years of evaluation implementation using a formal electronic evaluation management system.

Data from the early years of educator evaluation systems, implemented in preparation for Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers, showed inflation in summative scores relative to student outcomes. This trend lead to concerns that evaluators were overestimating educators’ skills, and that evaluations would grow less rigorous over time. However, the data analyzed in this report contradict these predictions, and instead show a pronounced curve downward among mean summative scores.

As educator evaluation scores become more accurate metrics for performance, they could be better used to help educators target their professional learning investments and improve their teaching over time. The opportunity to leverage accurate evaluation systems to provide more specific, timely and actionable feedback may be stronger now than ever before, even for those districts that are just beginning to implement formal electronic evaluation systems.

“Teacher observation and evaluation have the potential to impact student learning when teachers are able to make the information part of their instructional repertoire and put it into action in the classroom,” says Chuck Seipp, Assistant Superintendent of Roxbury Township, New Jersey, where his district is going into their third year of implementing a formal electronic evaluation system. “We’re able to give teachers timely, specific, and actionable feedback from observations, which they can reflect upon, discuss collaboratively, and use to inform the professional learning opportunities they pursue in order to continue to support the student experience.”

Bending Toward Accuracy follows a previous report from the Institute, Growth Metrics for K-12 Human Capital Management, which leveraged data from thousands of schools and millions of users to compile a recommended set of KPIs for human capital management. This report suggests that district leaders can consider benchmarks for their own talent management programs — from teacher absences to recruiting and hiring, to professional learning management and employee evaluation management — to drive a strategic, sustainable approach to mitigate the effects of teacher shortages.

About the Frontline Research & Learning Institute

The Frontline Research & Learning Institute is a division of Frontline Education, a leading provider of school administration software, empowering strategic K-12 leaders with the right tools, data and insights to proactively manage human capital, business operations and special education. The mission of the Institute is to provide data-driven research, resources and observations to support and advance the education community. The research is driven by the vast amount of data derived from solutions that Frontline provides to more than 12,000 educational organizations, representing over 80,000 schools and more than 60 percent of the nation’s school districts.


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Bending Toward Accuracy: How Teacher Evaluations Are Evolving