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Idaho principals share their thoughts on teacher evaluation

March 7, 2018

An Idaho State University study completed in 2017 revealed perceptions held by Idaho principals about the statewide teacher evaluation program implemented in 2015. Noteworthy findings included that principals believe the evaluation program helps them identify both good and poor teachers, helped inform the professional development needs of their teachers, and that they are adequately trained and knowledgeable about how to properly conduct teacher evaluation according to state guidelines.

Conversely, principals believed that balancing teacher evaluation requirements with other administrative responsibilities is a significant challenge, the evaluation program is not administered consistently across the state, and that associating teacher pay with evaluation does not contribute to positive teacher morale.

The study, conducted by Educational Leadership faculty Patti Mortensen, Gary Storie, and Mark Neill relied on a 20 statement survey sent to all principals in the state. Nearly half (47 percent) of Idaho’s 600 principals responded.

The survey was organized around six different themes relevant to principal involvement in teacher evaluation: knowledge and training, logistics, school conditions, instructional leadership, validity and reliability, and student achievement. Frequency responses and mean scores were used to analyze and interpret the results.

With regard to statements about knowledge and training, 88 percent of the principals believed they understand the Idaho teacher evaluation requirements, and 80 percent felt they have been adequately trained. About 60 percent believe teachers in their schools understand the requirements themselves.

Principals were split on their responses to a number of other survey items. For example, 43 percent of principals agreed (compared to 38 percent who disagreed) that they had the time needed to fully implement the teacher evaluation requirements. Almost 90 percent of the respondents agreed that balancing teacher evaluation requirements with other administrative tasks was a challenge, and 81 percent agreed that teacher evaluation tasks were impacted by unexpected events that require their attention.

Concerning school conditions, principals were largely noncommittal. Of the six statements posed, three received 40 percent or more neutral responses. The three statements included: “The teacher evaluation process contributes to teachers’ job satisfaction” (40 percent), “teacher evaluation contributes to a positive climate in my school” (50 percent), “teacher evaluation promotes trust between teachers and administrators” (41 percent). With regard to whether or not teacher evaluation helped improved their relationships with teachers more respondents agreed than did not (43 percent agreed vs. 28 percent disagreed). However, a clear consensus emerged that associating teacher evaluation with teacher pay positively impacts teacher morale; 84 percent disagreed with the statement.

Significant agreement was found among principals for three statements pertaining to instructional leadership. Nearly 72 percent of the respondents agreed that conducting teacher evaluations helped them identify and address poor teaching performance. Another 77 percent agreed that teacher evaluation helped them identify and commend strong teaching performance, while 72 percent agreed that teacher evaluation results informed professional development decisions in their schools. A majority of principals (52 percent) disagreed with the statement “conducting teacher evaluation is the best way to improve the performance levels of teachers in my school.”

Principals reported mixed perceptions about the validity and reliability of the teacher evaluation program. Fifty-five percent of the respondents agreed that their training in teacher evaluation ensured accuracy and consistency in rating their teachers’ performances, but 69 percent disagree that the program was implemented with consistency among all schools and school districts across the state.

Slightly less than half (46 percent) of the principals responding to the survey believed the teacher evaluation process improved student learning in their schools.

From these results researchers concluded the most compelling findings from the study included that principals’ believed they were knowledgeable and prepared to conduct teacher evaluations, that the process helped them identify and deal with both poor and good teachers, and that the results of teacher evaluation were used to inform decisions about professional development. However, concerns remain with regard to logistics and the time it takes to adequately and effectively conduct teacher evaluation according to state mandated guidelines. Principal responses made it apparent they don’t believe the evaluation program is implemented consistently across the state, and they don’t believe tying the results of teacher evaluation with teacher pay contributes to positive teacher morale.