Effective implementation of a well-designed strategic evaluation system drives improvement in teacher practice and student learning. This section highlights important details for implementing:
When implementing the core components of a strategic evaluation system, there are a variety of considerations related to each component. These considerations require a district to reflect on the context of their schools, educators and community along with the district structure and existing evaluation system.
When determining the weight of each component that will be used to evaluate educators, districts should consider the following questions:
Research indicates that student achievement should be at minimum 30%, with a target of 35% of an educator's total evaluation score.Districts that include student survey or student voice in the overall evaluation typically weight this component from 5 to 15% of the overall evaluation. Research suggests that evaluation systems with student surveys are strong and more reliable than those that neglect incorporating student voice. (The Widget Effect; Making a Difference: Six Places Where Teacher Evaluation Systems are Getting Results). The following breakdown is recommended:
- State Assessment: 10-15%
- District Assessment: 15%
- Other (Portfolio of student work, Student Learning Objectives (SLO), etc.): 5%
When determining what student growth measure will be used to evaluate student achievement, districts should consider the following questions:
The specific measure used and weight of each measure typically varies by the category a teacher falls within.For example, a teacher in a non-tested subject area or grade may have a certain measure weighted less or more heavily. Additionally, a teacher that teaches a specific sub-set of students may also have differing weights and/or measures.
When determining the student perception survey and implementation process, districts should consider the following questions:
Districts should put systems in place so a student does not complete a survey for every teacher.For example, a district could have students only complete two student perception surveys a year and use a randomly generated list to select the students that will complete a survey for a teacher.
When determining the calculation approach to teacher's ratings, districts should consider the following questions:
Target Distribution vs. Fixed Cut Points
Target Distribution: Target distribution sets a fixed percentage of teachers for each rating or point level and assigns cut scores for assessments based on this distribution. The use of a target distribution can help promote equity across grades and content areas because the cut score can be set independently for each assessment, mitigating for any differences in rigor of assessments. Additionally, once set, the distribution does not have to be adjusted if the test is changed. While the target distribution makes the evaluation process fair and sustainable, it limits how many teachers can be rated at the top, which can feel unfair to teachers and outside stakeholders.
A target distribution can also promote budget sustainability, if strategic compensation is included in the system design. A target distribution allows for budgeting models to predict the number of teachers who could receive salary increases, based on potential increase in performance rating.
Fixed Cut Points: Fixed cut points use pre-determined cut scores for each assessment and each overall performance level. While this method is more easily understood by teachers, providing a goal or a target for their individual performance, it does not allow for a district to adjust those targets if the outcomes of the student achievement component is different than expected. For example, if standards change for a STAAR exam, it may result in a harder exam and fewer than expected teachers reaching the higher performance levels.
Fixed cut points at the performance level can present a challenge for budget forecasting if strategic compensation is included in the system design strategic compensation. With fixed cut points, it is mathematically possible for all teachers to achieve the highest performance and therefore highest compensation level. If fixed cut points are used, other implementation parameters may be used to help ensure fiscal sustainability, such as a salary cap increase or a limit on the number of performance levels a teacher may advance each year.
Calibration is one of the most important and challenging elements of implementation.
When determining the administrator calibration methods, districts should consider the following questions:
Due to the large part observations play in many evaluation systems, and the tendency for scores to be inflated over time, a district needs to provide initial training to ensure calibration as well as take ongoing action to maintain consistent scoring.One example of ongoing training are calibration exercises (e.g., watching and rating videos together or observing teachers and debriefing) with principals multiple times during the year. In addition to training principals, principal supervisors should be provided calibration training at the beginning of the year and throughout the year. Finally, campus calibration walks throughout the year with people from outside the campus can help ensure principal calibration. Research shows that outside observers are least likely to bring bias to observation ratings. Districts should monitor and audit observation data regular to check for observers that may not be normed and investigate for biases or inflation.
Developing a differentiated compensation system based on the evaluation results requires careful consideration and preparation so that employees understand and embrace the transition to a new pay structure.
Increasing Base Salary or Providing a Stipend: A district may approach differentiated compensation by offering a change in base salary structure or as a stipend paid in addition to a traditional pay structure. A change to base salary signals a long-term commitment by a district, but may require implementation rules such as a targeted distribution to ensure it is fiscally able to sustain the proposed changes. A stipend allows a district to adjust the amounts each year based on the district’s available budget. This approach may increase the feeling among teachers that this is a temporary program, similar to other "pay for performance" stipends in the past.
Setting a Salary Floor: A district can set a salary floor so that an employee who was with district prior to the change in compensation will not see their salary decrease. This decision will impact how teachers who have prior salaries based on years of experience and/or degrees are hired and paid as they transition into a new district’s pay structure. A district may also consider providing a salary floor based on their starting salary with the district or may choose to not offer a salary floor, meaning the teacher’s salary will adjust based on the first year of performance in the district.
Setting a Salary Increase Cap: As the district transitions from a traditional pay scale, a cap on increase in salary each year can help ensure financial stability and predictability. Some districts have used a $5,000 cap on an increase each year for the first two years of a new compensation system.
Compensation Level Movement: Implementing rules that control for fluctuation in effectiveness level will provide stability to a teacher’s annual salary. With the addition of more complex student achievement measures, the final evaluation scorecards may not be available until late summer/early September, meaning teachers will need to be able to anticipate the salary for the coming year based on implementation parameters. Here are some examples of parameters:
One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is assuming that teachers, school leaders and parents will quickly get on board with changes to evaluation systems. Change can trigger anxiety and the growth measures in particular can be very hard to understand. It is important to remember that teachers and principals will be the ones implementing the evaluation system every day and so district leaders need to engage them continuously to build buy-in, understanding and get feedback on what’s working and what could be improved. Districts that have led change successfully have done so after significant stakeholder engagement and can honestly say that stakeholder input drove the changes.
Change management and communication is critical for districts implementing a value-added measure (VAM). Educators may already have some assumptions, or misconceptions, around VAM so it is important that district’s provide clear communication and information to leaders and educators.
The framing and messaging around changing the evaluation system and the evaluation system in general should never focus on judging, sorting or getting rid of the worst teachers.The highest and best purpose of an evaluation system is supporting teacher growth and ensuring that students are taught by high quality teachers. It is important for district leadership to give a detailed presentation highlighting the “WHY” for the strategic evaluation initiative to its senior leaders, and how they envision implementing the changes to the evaluation system within the district; allowing plenty of time for questions and mutual understanding. Doing this on the front end will avoid conflicts down the road when implementation of program components begins.
There are a number of ways to "find" existing dollars in a district’s general operating budget to fund a strategic evaluation system. For many districts that may have used a flat increase for all employees, it may consider using those dollars to fund the new strategic compensation approach. Some additional examples used by districts include:
A district should not rely on philanthropy or grants to fund increases to teacher salaries.It is important to make a concrete commitment to the educators that their salary is funded out of the general fund, and can continue to be funded by the district.
The Texas legislature passed a sweeping bill for school finance reform in the spring of 2019, including unlocking funds districts for a Teacher Incentive Allotment. For additional information on TIA and other components of House Bill 3, please visit the TEA webpage.
As with any district initiative, the capacity of district departments to execute this work is critical for success. The performance evaluation team is frequently housed within Human Resources, supporting current evaluation system(s). As changes to the system are considered, the team supporting may need to grow and will need to expand beyond the Human Resources department to include the following roles:
Prior to embarking on strengthening or creating a new evaluation system a district should assess its current capacity to collect, analyze and track the data necessary to determine accurate and understandable evaluations.Many districts use partners to support them. For example, Lubbock ISD partners with SAS EVAAS and Batelle for Kids to aid in their value-added model and stipend awards.
Engaging with school leadership early on in the process is important to ensure their input is included in the design and that they understand and support the evaluation system.Many districts gather principals early in the process. The principals are than able to be advocates for change.
In addition to broad engagement with most departments in the district, a subset of leaders, the implementation leadership team, will be critical to identify and to charge with ensuring a coherent and smooth rollout of changes. The implementation leadership team should include the following members:
Bringing in data and research team members early on is critical for making sure the data generated by the evaluation system can be translated into accessible information and acted upon at the school and district level.The evaluation data should be analyzed every year to surface systemic weaknesses or biases in the system. In Dallas, the evaluation team includes the Office of Institutional Research who provide the score cards for teachers and leaders to understand the data.