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How Do Schools Respond to State Policies on Teacher Evaluation?

A policy brief by Julie A. Marsh, Susan Bush-Mecenas, Katharine O. Strunk, Jane Arnold Lincove, and Alice Huguet on the implementation of post-Katrina teacher evaluation reforms in New Orleans publicly funded schools.

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How Do Schools Respond to State Policies on Teacher Evaluation?

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In 2010, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill requiring that all Louisiana public school teachers receive an annual evaluation consisting of two equally-weighted components: measures of student performance growth and observations of teaching. Regulations passed the following year allowed local districts and charter schools to either adopt the state’s evaluation system and observation tool, called Compass, or submit a waiver to use their own. This study examines how eight New Orleans schools—both charter and district-run—responded to the new state policy and what organizational factors influenced their responses. We draw the following conclusions:

  • The schools varied widely in their response to the teacher evaluation law. Some schools reacted by reflecting on instructional practice, while others either complied with the law or acted strategically.
  • Only three of eight schools engaged primarily in reflective practice, producing and using evaluation results to think about instruction and ways to improve it.
  • Schools’ responses did not appear related to their governance models, authorizers, or general levels of autonomy, but other factors seemed to promote more learning-centered approaches to implementation:
    • Schools that modified the state-recommended evaluation system were often more reflective in their responses, suggesting that the flexibility to modify evaluation policy may increase organizational learning, as it provides opportunities for customization and greater teacher buy-in.
    • Shared leadership and structured collaboration around evaluation at the school level also appeared to promote a more reflective approach to evaluation and reduce the burden on administrators to observe, evaluate, provide feedback to, and support teachers.

As with most policies, the effects depend on policy design and implementation. Given the importance of effective instruction, implementation of teacher evaluation may be significant for driving student outcomes.