Panel: Lessons from Teacher Evaluation Reform in U.S. Public Schools

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Comiskey (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Roddy Theobald, American Institutes for Research
Panel Chairs:  Roddy Theobald, American Institutes for Research
Discussants:  Michael Herring, Chicago Public Schools and Matthew P. Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania

Revisiting the Widget Effect: Teacher Evaluation Reforms and Distribution of Teacher Effectiveness Ratings
Allison Gilmour, Vanderbilt University and Matthew Kraft, Brown University

The Role of School and District Implementation in Subjective Teacher Evaluations
James Cowan1, Dan Goldhaber1,2 and Roddy Theobald1, (1)American Institutes for Research, (2)University of Washington

The current decade has seen nearly unprecedented reforms of teacher evaluation systems in U.S. public schools. Nearly every state has revised its teacher evaluation system in response to the Race to the Top competition and rules for waiving regulations in the No Child Left Behind Act (Steinberg & Donaldson, 2016), and a number of districts across the country have integrated new teacher evaluation systems into broader district efforts to differentially retain effective teachers. This panel brings together four papers that analyze data at the national, state, or district level and explore the implications of teacher evaluation reforms for student and teacher outcomes.

The first paper takes a broad, national focus and examines how the distribution of teacher evaluation ratings has changed within states that have reformed their teacher evaluation systems. The authors find that the percentage of teachers rated Unsatisfactory in most states remains about the same as before these reforms (less than 1%). The authors supplement this national analysis with a case study of a single district, and conclude by summarizing in-depth interviews of principals that shed light on why teachers are so unlikely to receive low performance ratings.

The second paper takes a state-level focus by using data from Massachusetts to examine the role of school and district implementation in the state’s new teacher evaluation system. The authors find considerable variation in evaluation ratings across districts that does not reflect differences in teacher value added across districts, and that the relationship between a teacher’s evaluation ratings and value added is much stronger in some districts than others.

The final two papers consider teacher evaluation reforms at the district level. The third paper considers the effects of revisions to the high-profile teacher evaluation system in DC Public Schools that is an example of a “first wave” teacher evaluation reform that includes a significant focus on teacher contributions to student achievement. Specifically, the paper examines the impact of targeting financial incentives to high-performing teachers in high-poverty schools, and finds that this policy reduced attrition of targeted teachers in the district.

The final paper considers a recent teacher evaluation reform in the Los Angeles School District, the Educator Development and Support: Teachers (EDST), that is an example of a “second wave” teacher evaluation reform that is based primarily on principal observations of teachers (not student achievement). The authors find evidence that EDST impacted teacher quality through its influence on teacher attrition and retention.

The panel will benefit from comments from two expert discussants. The first discussant, a district administrator responsible for overseeing and implementing the district’s teacher evaluation reforms, will discuss the policy implications of these papers for policymakers seeking to continue efforts to reform teacher evaluation systems. The second discussant, a prominent researcher in the field of teacher evaluation, will discuss the implications of these papers for future research in this area.


Steinberg, M. P., & Donaldson, M. L. (2016). The new educational accountability: Understanding the landscape of teacher evaluation in the post-NCLB era. Education Finance and Policy.

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