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Public Elementary Teachers' Views on Teacher Performance Evaluations
NCES: 94097
March 1994

Reasons for Teacher Performance Evaluations

Teachers were asked to identify all of the reasons for their last performance evaluation. The options were a regularly scheduled evaluation, for tenure, for a promotion, for merit pay, or because the teacher requested it, and teachers could choose more than one reason. Ninety-seven percent of teachers said that their most recent teacher performance evaluation was a regularly scheduled evaluation (Table 5). Nine percent said their evaluation was conducted as part of the process of conferring tenure, and 6 percent reported that their evaluation would determine the award of merit pay. Less than 1 percent of teachers said the evaluation was done at the teachers" request. Not surprisingly, teachers with probationary or temporary status were more likely than teachers holding standard or advanced certificates to report that their last evaluation was conducted for the purpose of receiving tenure. The same was true for teachers with 4 yeas or fewer in service at the current school versus teachers who had taught at the school for 5 to 10 years or 11 years or more.

Outcomes of Teacher Performance Evaluations

Most teachers reported that positive outcomes followed their last teacher performance evaluation. Teachers believe that their evaluation presented an accurate picture of their teaching performance. This satisfactory outcome was reported by 89 percent of teachers. Sixty-three percent of teachers had the opportunity to design a plan for their professional development following their last teacher performance evaluation. The only significant difference among groups of teachers was that teachers with advanced certificates were more likely to say that they were given the opportunity to design such a plan than were teachers with standard certificates. Seventy-four percent of teachers thought that their last evaluation had been useful for improving their teaching skills.

Objectives of Teacher Performance Evaluations

Teachers" opinions were sought about nine possible objectives of teacher performance evaluations. Four of these objectives are formative, that is, they represent the more inclusive goal of encouraging the professional development of teachers. These are to guide improvement of teaching skills, to recognize and reinforce teaching excellence, to help teachers focus on student outcomes, and to plan in service education activities. Four other objectives -- to make tenure and promotion decisions, to discharge incompetent teachers, to help teachers define standards for their peers, and to determine teachers" pay levels -- are summative goals involving personnel decisions. The ninth objective, to give administrator greater control over teacher job performance, does not fit into either category. Most teachers perceive that evaluations at their school are used to promote the development of improved teaching skills rather than to assist administrators and other teachers to make judgments affecting personnel decisions for teachers. Furthermore, most teachers do not believe that the latter goals should be objectives of performance evaluations at their schools (Figure 6).

Formative Goals

A majority of teachers reported that formative goals, that is, goals associated with professional development (guiding improvement of teaching skills, recognizing and reinforcing teaching excellence, helping teachers focus on student outcomes, and planning in service education activities), should be an objective to a great extent in teacher performance evaluations (Table 6 and Figure 6). However, approximately 20 percent fewer teachers reported that each of these four goals had been an objective to a great extent at their school when they were last evaluated. For example:

  • Guiding improvement of teaching skills was cited by 81 percent of teachers as being an appropriate objective to a great extent, but only 61 percent of teachers said that it actually was an objective to a great extent in their last evaluation.
     
  • While 70 percent of teachers believe that recognizing and reinforcing teaching excellence should be an objective of teacher performance evaluations to a great extent 51 percent reported that it actually was an objective to a great extent when they were last evaluated.

Summative Goals

Smaller percentages of teachers cited goals associated with personnel decisions for teachers as having been an objective at their school. Furthermore, smaller percentages felt that summative goals should be objectives of teacher performance evaluations to a great extent than believed that of formative goals. The summative goals measured in this survey are to make tenure and promotion decisions, to discharge incompetent teachers, to help teachers define standards for their peers, and to determine teachers" pay levels. Despite more congruence between teachers" opinions and school objectives on these goals, there was a significant difference between teachers" perceptions of whether these should be objectives to a great extent compared to whether they actually were objectives to a great extent at the time of the last evaluation This was true for each goal except the goal of making tenure and promotion decisions. For instance, 45 percent of teachers thought the goal of discharging incompetent teachers should be an objective of teacher performance evaluations to a great extent but only 18 percent reported that it was actually an objective to a great extent when they were last evaluated.

Administrative Control

The goal of giving administrators greater control over teacher job performance showed a different pattern from the other objectives. Eleven percent of teachers believed that giving administration greater control over teacher job performance should be an objective to a great extent however, 15 percent reported that it was actually an objective to a great extent when they were last evaluated.


Variations by Teacher and School Characteristics

Perhaps one of the most striking findings is that 75 percent of teachers reported that determining teachers" pay levels was not at all an objective at their school when they were last evaluated, and 50 percent agree that it should not be an objective to any extent (Table 6). This opinion varies with years of service in the current school. Forty-three percent of teachers with 1 through 4 years of service versus 58 percent of those who have 11 years or more of service in the current school believe that determining pay levels should not be an objective of teacher performance evaluations to any extent (Figure 7).

Some opinions about goals that are objectives to a great extent in the evaluations teachers have experienced and those that teachers believe should be objectives to a great extent are associated with other teacher and school characteristics. For instance, teachers with probationary or temporary status are more likely than teachers with standard certification status to report that planning in service education is an important objective of teacher performance evaluations at their schools. This is also true of teachers in schools with enrollments of more than 600 students versus schools with less than 400 students and of teachers in city schools versus those in rural schools. However, a greater percentage of teachers in schools located in towns than in schools in rural areas think planning in service education should be an objective of evaluations. School size is associated with teacher belief that setting standards for peers should be an objective of teacher performance evaluations. A greater percentage of teachers in the largest schools (27 percent) than in the smallest schools (19 percent) believe that defining standards for peers should be an objective. However, urbanicity of the school is related to teachers" reporting that setting standards for peers is an objective to a great extent, with a greater percentage of teachers in cities and towns than teachers in rural areas reporting it as an objective of evaluations in their schools. Urbanicity is also related to reporting that the goal of evaluations to a great extent is helping teachers focus on student outcomes. Fifty-seven percent of teachers in suburban schools report that this was a goal in their schools at the last evaluation versus 36 percent in rural areas. Finally, teachers with 11 or more years of service are more likely to report that discharging incompetent teachers is an objective at their schools than are teachers with fewer than 5 years of service (Table 7), and teachers of 4th through 6th grade are more likely than teachers of kindergarten through 3rd grade to believe that it should be.

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