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


The evaluation of teaching performance is regarded as an important means of promoting excellence in education. As one researcher has noted, "The public has come to believe that the key to education improvement lies as much in upgrading the quality of teachers as in revamping school programs and curricula" (Darling-Hammond 1990, 18). The increased importance attached to the evaluation of teaching can be seen in various events that occurred during the 1980s, such as the adoption by most states of teacher testing programs for certification, the establishment of a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, major revisions to the National Teacher Examinations, and the development by many states of guidelines for teacher evaluation (Millman and Darling-Hammond 1990). The purposes of teacher evaluation are generally divided into two major goals: formative and summative (Millman 1981, Bickers 1988, Millman and Darling- Hammond 1990). Improving classroom teaching and fostering professional development are examples of the formative goals of teacher evaluation. Evaluations can also be used to achieve summative goals, such as setting standards by which employment and compensation decisions are made and removing incompetent teachers from the classroom.

Most educational administrators and teachers agree that evaluations must be used constructively before they can be effective in improving educational excellence. The extent to which teachers know the criteria and procedures for performance evaluation, view their evaluations as useful to their professional development and perceive the objectives of the evaluation process at their school as consistent with the objectives that they regard as meaningful may affect the success of teacher performance evaluations in improving the quality of education in the United States (Darling-Hammond, Wise, and Pease 1983).

Efforts are underway to help schools throughout the nation improve measurement criteria, instruments, and procedures for evaluating the performance of their teachers and to train education and administrative in the use of valid evaluation measures (Dwyer and Stufflebeam forthcoming). Research has been conducted to assess the current patterns of teacher performance evaluations, including case studies on school and district policies (Wise et al. 1984; Stiggins and Duke 1988). However, there is little, if any, national data from the teacher"s perspective: how do teachers view the evaluation practices and procedures at their schools and what are their opinions on various aspects of their performance evaluations?

To provide data to fill this gap, the Survey on Teacher Performance Evaluations was commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The Office of Research, U.S. Department of Education, requested the survey to provide data for the Center for Research on Educational Accountability and Teacher Evaluation (CREATE), a component of The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University's College of Education. CREATE is a national research and development center tided by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the U.S. Department of Education. CREATE serves as a focal point for efforts to strengthen educational services by improving teacher performance evaluations and developing other strategies (Stufflebeam 1991). The survey was conducted by Westat, Inc., using the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), which was established by NCES to collect small quantities of data needed for educational planning and policy. Data were collected from a national sample of public school teachers of kindergarten through grade 6 who were asked to report on the most recent teacher performance evaluation they had received. More information on the survey methodology is contained in the final sections of this report.

This report presents data on the extent to which public school teachers of kindergarten through grade 6 have experienced formal evaluations in their current school and the procedures that their schools employ in evaluating teacher performance. This survey included only elementary school teachers because their experience was likely to differ from that of secondary school teachers. A Fast Response survey does not permit a large enough sample size to compare the two groups. Teachers' assessments of the outcomes of their last teaching performance evaluation are also presented. In addition, the report gives the perspectives of teachers on the aspects of teaching that were actually considered in evaluating their teaching performance, the aspects that they believe should be considered, and the appropriate uses of formal teacher performance evaluations.

Data are given for all teachers of kindergarten through grade 6 who are in at least their second year of teaching at their current school and who have been formally evaluated at least one time at that school. (Only teachers in at least their second year at their current school were sampled because first year teachers may not have had the opportunity to have completed a formal evaluation.) Data are also presented by selected teacher and school characteristics. The specific characteristics were chosen because CREATE's experience indicated they might show variation in perspectives on teacher performance evaluation. Data were not analyzed by sex and race due to small sample sizes for males and minorities. Approximately 84 percent of public elementary school teachers am female, and 73 percent are white, non-Hispanic. (Schools and Staffing in the United States: A Statistical Profile 1990-91) Teacher characteristics were obtained from the teachers in the survey and school characteristics were obtained from the Common Com of Data (CCD) Universe of Public Schools.

    Teacher characteristics
    • Teacher certification status when last evaluated: advanced, standard, probationary or temporary.
    • Grade: K through third, fourth through sixth.
    • Number of years teaching in current school; 1 through 4,5 through 10, 11 or more.

    School characteristics
    • Enrollment size of school: less than 400 (small), 400 to 600 (medium), more than 600 (large).
    • Urbanicity of school: city, urban fringe, town, rural. Urbanicity categories are defined in the survey methodology section of this report.

Survey findings are organized into six sections. The first section addresses teacher performance evaluation practices. Section two presents evaluation procedures. Section three gives teachers" opinions about the aspects of teaching that they think should be considered in performance evaluations. A discussion of the reasons for and outcomes of evaluations is contained in sections four and five, and a section on teachers" perspectives on the appropriate objectives of evaluations concludes the report.