Can we imagine a future where there are no teacher evaluations?

Complex and rigorous teacher evaluation systems have not produced measurable academic improvement.
Allyson Burnett
Allyson Burnett
Since retiring from public education, Allyson Burnett has worked as a national educational consultant who specializes in helping new and struggling teachers, and an adjunct professor who teaches students on the path to becoming urban educators. She created and continues to support the virtual coaching professional services at Sibme.

Establishing strong teacher accountability and effective teacher evaluations have long been a priority for K-12 districts. But nearly a decade of reforms have created complex and rigorous teacher evaluation systems without producing measurable improvement in reading, math, or high school graduation rates, according to a recent study.

Considering the flawed foundation of “traditional” teacher evaluations—one-off observations, confusing rubrics and complex formulas—this finding shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Traditional evaluation systems often fail to accurately capture educators’ day-to-day instructional practices.

I propose an alternative approach: short, informal, and more consistent observations powered by video recordings, instructional coaching and collaboration. Here are a few ways to implement these methodologies in your school or district.

Promote self-reflective learning through video

Much like an athlete reviewing game tapes to improve their skill, a teacher who can review their methodologies by watching themselves teach in a classroom allows for greater self-reflection and growth.

Teachers, in partnership with administrators, instructional coaches, and peers, can create their own professional learning goals that are connected to the state or district teaching standards, and then use video to record evidence of their practice.

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Video followed by self-reflection is more impactful than rubrics and formulas used for the purpose of evaluation because this process helps teachers see how their instruction is truly impacting student learning in the classroom. Furthermore, video can help to identify the objective reality of a teacher’s practice, for the teacher themselves and administrators.
With frequent video recordings of a teacher using targeted strategies during direct instruction, administrators have access to a larger sample size of a teacher’s performance. This will result in fair and constructive feedback for teachers instead of “gotcha observations”.

Build a culture of trust with upward feedback

Open collaboration and the ability to engage in productive conversations with all stakeholders from principals, coaches and central office staff, ensures that teachers have the resources they need to be successful. This open communication can help school and district leaders avoid cases of “initiative fatigue” and ensure their educators feel supported.

When teachers have space to freely express their opinions, struggles, and needs, it can help K-12 leaders build trust and a stronger foundation for communication within schools and districts.

Don’t forget the students

Students know good teaching when they experience it. They also spend more time with teachers than any formal observer ever will. At colleges and universities, students’ feedback is routinely gathered through surveys—this approach is rarely used in K-12 education.

Research validates the crucial role well-crafted student surveys play in evaluating teacher effectiveness, so school and district leaders would be well-advised to include them in their teacher evaluation systems.

Out with the old, in with the new

Amidst the pandemic and other stressors, supporting and retaining teachers has become a key priority in K-12 education. To achieve this, school and district leaders should consider replacing those outdated, and infrequent evaluation systems with something that’s more flexible and meaningful. A modern approach to observation and evaluation not only benefits teachers—it benefits students, families and the district community as a whole.

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