Panel members provided ongoing feedback and perspective and were invited to submit unedited written responses to the study’s findings and recommendations. Their insights supplemented survey responses from over 15,000 teachers and 1,300 principals, and data from more than 40,000 teacher evaluation records.
The study illustrates that teacher evaluation systems reflect and codify the “Widget Effect”—the tendency of school districts to treat teachers as essentially interchangeable—in several major ways:
• All teachers are rated “good” or “great.” Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, even in schools where students fail to meet basic academic standards, year after year.
• Excellence goes unrecognized. In districts with more than two ratings, 94 percent of teachers receive one of the top two. When superlative ratings are the norm, truly exceptional teachers cannot be formally identified. Nor can they be compensated, promoted or retained on a systemic basis.
• Professional development is inadequate. Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive any specific feedback on improving their performance in their last evaluation.
• Novice teachers are neglected. Low expectations for beginning teachers translate into benign neglect in the classroom and a toothless tenure process.
• Poor performance goes unaddressed. Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years. None dismiss more than a few each year.