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Can Teacher Evaluation Systems Produce High-Quality Feedback?

In the past decade, many districts and schools have turned to teacher evaluations as a way to provide the feedback that teachers need to improve instruction. Yet few evaluation systems deliver the kind of high-quality feedback that will actually help teachers develop. In a new working paper from Brown University's Annenberg Institute, researchers Matt Kraft and Alvin Christian examine the impact of a school district's effort to reform its teacher evaluation system by providing more training for administrators on giving feedback. 

Kraft and Christian looked at data from Boston Public Schools to see if these reforms led to improvements in classroom instruction, teacher confidence in their practice, and student achievement.

The researchers surveyed teachers at the end of the second and third years of the new evaluation system and found that teachers reported evaluators were fair, accurate and respectful. But they did not feel their feedback was useful in improving instruction practices. The researchers found that the training did not significantly improve classroom instruction, teacher self-efficacy, or student achievement.  

The results indicate that training programs for evaluators alone will not reform evaluation systems, especially given the time and capacity constraints that administrators face. The researchers propose substantial investments in developing instructional leadership roles specifically for providing feedback and coaching. They also urge diversifying the teacher workforce, since teachers of color respond better to feedback from evaluators of the same race. And the researchers note that teachers may be hesitant to share their weaknesses with evaluators if they perceive the system to be high stakes, and steps need to be taken to ensure teachers feel comfortable with their evaluators.

-By Catherine Dragone

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