Teacher performance evaluations are a common practice in the nation"s public elementary schools; 98 percent of elementary teachers reported that they had been formally evaluated at least one time in the schools in which they are currently teaching. Of those teachers who had been evaluated,1 42 percent indicated that they had been evaluated 6 to 14 times in their current school, and 29 percent indicated that they had been evaluated 15 or more times (Table 1).
Variations in the meaning of "formal evaluation" should be kept in mind when interpreting the number of evaluations a teacher has received. The definition of formal evaluation included on the questionnaire instructed respondents to answer with regard to the total and systematic process of performance evaluation within a given time period. This process might extend over the course of a semester or a year, or a longer period of time, and it might include several different procedures to evaluate various aspects of teaching performance. It would likely have some closure in the form of feedback to the teacher or a written report of the outcome. However, because the time period included in a formal evaluation might vary and because there were specific questions about whether or not feedback was received by the teacher, as well as the type of feedback that was received, those points were not part of the definition that was offered. Judging from the teachers" counts of the number of times they had been formally evaluated, some may view the formal evaluation process in a more fragmented manner. For example, each occurrence of classroom observation appears to have been counted as a formal evaluation by some respondents, even though they all may have been part of one year-long process. On the other hand, some teachers who were interviewed by telephone explained that early in their teaching careers they received formal evaluations several times a year, and as they gained experience, they were formally evaluated on a yearly or biennial basis. Seventy-two percent of teachers had received a formal evaluation during the 1992-93 academic year.
Nearly three-quarters of the teachers held a standard teaching certificate at the time they were last evaluated, about one in five held advanced certification, and only 5 percent were in probationary or temporary status (Table 1). Findings related to certification status should be interpreted cautiously. The categories may have different meanings in different states, and teachers holding probationary or temporary status maybe new employees in a state or district but not new to the teaching profession.2
A majority of teachers reported that written policies guide their teacher performance evaluations. Most common are the district-level policies, reported by 90 percent of teachers, and school-level policies, reported by 80 percent of the teachers. Although 56 percent of all teachers reported that their state has a written policy on evaluations, 37 percent said they did not know whether or not their state had a written policy on evaluations (Figure 1). The existence of written state policies on teacher performance evaluations is associated with geographical region. Seventy-seven percent of teachers in the Southeast, 69 percent of those in the West, and only 36 percent of teachers in the Northeast and 33 percent in the Central region of the country knew that their state had a written policy on evaluations (Figure 2). Approximately 3 percent of teachers were not aware of any written policy for their evaluations either at the state, district or school level.
Evaluation procedures can encompass various indicators of teaching performance. A large majority of teachers, 92 percent reported that their most recent evaluation included classroom observations that received a formal rating, and 69 percent said that informal observations were part of the last evaluation (Table 2). Informal observations were more likely to be reported by teachers at schools enrolling less than 400 students than by teachers at schools having more than 600 students. Only 1 percent of teachers said videotapes of their teaching performance were evaluated.
Teachers say that their performance evaluations rarely include objective indicators of subject matter expertise. Only 4 percent of teachers reported that their scores on tests were considered in evaluating their teaching performance, and 19 percent said that portfolios of their work were evaluated. Also rarely included in the performance evaluation was input from students either in the form of student questionnaires or student test scores. Four percent of teachers said student test scores were considered as part of their evaluation process, and only 2 percent said student questionnaires were included.
Procedures for most teacher performance evaluations include establishing and disseminating criteria for the evaluation. Ninety-four percent of teachers reported that the criteria for evaluating their performance were known to them prior to the evaluation process (Table 2). Likewise, most teachers received a verbal explanation (97 percent) and a written report (91 percent) following their last evaluation. Eighty-seven percent of teachers reported that their school has an appeal process. Ninety-five percent can submit a written response to the evaluation that will become part of the teacher's permanent file; this right is more common for teachers in schools located in an urban fringe area than for those in city schools.
The vast majority of teacher performance evaluations are conducted by the school principal. Principals were involved in evaluating 90 percent of elementary school teachers, and a school administrator other than the principal was involved in evaluating 20 percent of teachers (Figure 3). Other personnel named were district or state evaluators or members of the school board (by 6 percent of teachers), a master teacher or a group of teachers, and students or parents of students (both by 2 percent). In 89 percent of all evaluations the principal had the major role, in 9 percent another school administrator had the major role, and in 2 percent a district administrator had the major role in conducting the evaluation (Figure 4).
Elementary teachers were asked to assess 13 aspects of teaching that could potentially be taken into account when evaluating teacher performance. They were asked to report the extent to which each aspect had actually been considered in their most recent evaluation, and whether they think each aspect should be considered when evaluating a teacher"s performance. More than 90 percent of elementary teachers said that the following six aspects of teaching should be considered in evaluating a teacher's performance: overall teaching performance (99 percent), subject matter knowledge (99 percent), classroom management (99 percent), instructional techniques (99 percent), helping each student achieve according to his or her ability (97 percent), and teaching demands unique to students in the classroom (95 percent). Somewhat smaller percentages named equitable treatment of students and colleagues (89 percent), professional development activities (80 percent), and cooperation with other school personnel (78 percent) as important factors to consider. Neighborhood or school problems affecting one"s teaching, involving parents in the learning process, grading methods, and test construction skills were cited by 69 percent, 65 percent, 56 percent, and 49 percent, respectively (Table 3).
The six aspects of teaching that more than 90 percent of teachers said should be considered when conducting teacher performance evaluations were also cited as actually having been considered to a great extent during their most recent evaluations by the greatest percentage of teachers. Over 50 percent of teachers reported that those six aspects -- overall teaching performance, subject matter knowledge, classroom management, instructional techniques, helping each student achieve according to his or her ability, and teaching demands unique to students in the classroom -- had actually been considered to a great extent (Figure 5 and Table 3). Forty-three percent of teachers reported that equitable treatment of students and colleagues was considered. However, for each of these aspects of teaching, there was a significant discrepancy between the percentage citing it as important to consider and the percentage citing it as actually having been considered to a great extent in their evaluations. For example,
A majority of teachers reported four aspects of teaching had been considered only to a small extent or not at all when they were last evaluated. These were test construction skills (cited by 68 percent), grading methods (61 percent), neighborhood or school problems affecting one's teaching (60 percent), and involving parents in the learning process (57 percent).
Teachers were generally alike in their opinions as to what was and what should be considered in a teacher's evaluation. Few teacher or school characteristics were associated with the aspects of teaching that were actually considered to a great extent in the performance evaluations of elementary teachers. Some differences in opinion as to what was considered in evaluations were, however, associated with teacher certification status. A greater percentage of teachers holding advanced certification, 73 percent, than teachers with standard certification, 63 percent, reported that subject matter knowledge was considered to a great extent in their last evaluation (Table 4). Similarly, a higher percentage of teachers with advanced certificates than with standard certificates (23 percent and 11 percent, respectively) reported that involving parents in the learning process was considered to a great extent. A greater proportion of teachers with advanced certificates (15 percent) than those with probationary or temporary certificates (4 percent) said that grading methods were considered to a great extent in their last evaluation.
Other differences were associated with the grade taught and with the urbanicity of the school. For instance, 56 percent of teachers of kindergarten through grade 3 reported that teaching demands unique to students in the classroom were considered to a great extent versus 48 percent of teachers of grades 4 through 6. Teachers at schools located in the urban fringe were more likely than teachers in rural schools to report that professional development activities had been considered in their last evaluation, while a greater percentage of teachers in cities than teachers in towns or rural areas said that neighborhood and school problems affecting their teaching were considered to a great extent. There was also a significant difference between teachers in urban fringe and rural areas, with a higher percentage of urban fringe than rural teachers reporting that neighborhood and school problems had been taken into consideration to a great extent at their last evaluation.
Teachers were asked to rate the level of competency of the persons who last evaluated them on each of the 13 selected aspects of teaching. In general, evaluators were deemed competent to evaluate the aspects of teaching considered most important by teachers. Fifty percent or more said that their most recent evaluator was highly competent to evaluate the following nine aspects of teaching: overall teacher performance, subject matter knowledge, classroom management, instructional techniques, contribution to student achievement, teaching demands unique to the students in their classroom, equitable treatment of students and colleagues, professional development activities, and cooperation with other school personnel (Table 3).
1Because so few respondents indicated they had not been fondly evaluated those cases were excluded from further analysis.
2Only 49 teachers in the sample reported holding probationary or temporary certification. Because of this small sample size and the resulting large variances, apparent percentage differences shown in tiles may not be statistically significant.