Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report examining the status of new education-evaluation plans being implemented across the nation as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, waivers.
In 2011, the Department of Education provided states with an opportunity for flexibility from certain requirements under ESEA, currently known as the No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, Act. The flexibility process requires states to develop and implement new educator-evaluation systems to help identify effective teachers, as well as those who can benefit from additional supports to improve their instructional practice. While some states required districts to adopt state-designed evaluation systems, other states gave school districts discretion in designing their own teacher-evaluation systems. Inevitably, one of the challenges those states that offered discretion now face is tracking and monitoring the variety of district teacher-evaluation plans. The capacity for a state department of education to effectively monitor these systems depends largely on the size of the state and the number of districts within that state.
Under the ESEA waiver-granting process, states agreed to certain reforms, such as developing or adopting college- and career-ready standards and teacher-accountability plans that include student-achievement data as a condition of being let out of certain requirements of NCLB. The waiver plans submitted by states seeking flexibility under ESEA are comprehensive and detailed, and implementation of those plans is well underway in the states that received waivers.
As the reforms begin to take hold, it is worth tracking just how states are implementing or adapting their waiver plans. In the report released today, the Center for American Progress reviewed state ESEA waiver plans as they relate to the implementation and monitoring of evaluation and support systems for teachers.
The report identifies several trends, including the following:
Creating new departments within state departments of education or forming partnerships to support teacher evaluation. Many state departments of education are moving from being mere compliance monitors to taking a more active role in district reform implementation. Because of this, particularly in the educator-evaluation process, many state departments of education have created new offices or units to increase their capacity to take on the new work. Other state departments of education have formed partnerships with outside vendors to help aid them in this work.
Creating state-designed teacher-evaluation cheat sheets for districts. Many states have created documents for school districts to use when developing teacher-evaluation systems to ensure that locally designed systems align with state evaluation models.
Designing and implementing systems to manage district plans that do not align with state requirements. In some states, if districts do not align with the state model for teacher evaluation, the state will respond to the district with corrections that the district is expected to make prior to resubmitting its proposal. In other states, if districts refuse to report teacher-evaluation alignment and implementation plans, the state will withhold funds to the district.
Developing and implementing electronic data systems for approving and/or monitoring district teacher-evaluation systems. District teacher-evaluation data collection can be a major challenge for state departments of education, particularly states with hundreds of districts to track. For this reason, several states have developed electronic data-collection systems, and many states have partnered with outside organizations in the creation of these systems.
Instituting backend accountability for school districts. In some states, school districts are given the opportunity to develop parts or all of their teacher-evaluation systems without the initial input of the state department of education. However, if at the end of the school year districts are not complying with state law or have failed to meet state expectations around teacher-evaluation implementation by, for example, having a too-narrow range of teacher-evaluation results, the state department of education has the right to take away school district autonomy and begin monitoring those districts more closely.
Encouraging peer review of teacher-evaluation proposals between districts. In some states, the state department of education will help facilitate a peer-review process of locally developed teacher-evaluation systems. This process allows districts throughout the state to know what others are doing in terms of teacher evaluation and provides opportunities for assistance and feedback between districts.
This report also uses detailed case studies to look closely at four states—Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and Ohio—and the unique structures each has put in place to keep track of locally developed teacher-evaluation systems. In addition, based on the specifics set out by states in their waiver plans and an examination of how the rollout of teacher-evaluation systems is proceeding in early-adopter states, this report identifies key takeaways—or best practices—for state departments of education and school districts to consider as they head into full implementation of their teacher-evaluation systems.