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How should we evaluate teachers? It’s a huge question right now. And it seems like everyone has an opinion. But the one thing many people seem to agree on is that our current evaluation systems are inadequate. What a better system might look like – well, that’s still up for discussion. With so many stakeholders, so many different policies in different districts and so many fundamental questions on what makes a good teacher — and how best to measure student growth — it’s a hard question to answer definitively.

Yesterday, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) released a new report, “Teacher Evaluation 2.0,” that suggests six “design standards” for districts to follow when creating new teacher-evaluation systems. Most are fairly clear-cut: “all teachers should be evaluated annually,” or “evaluations should employ four to five rating levels to describe differences in teacher effectiveness.”

These are not very contentious ideas, even if they’re a departure from the status quo. (Historically, many districts have evaluated teachers on a simple binary scale of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” and many have also evaluated teachers sporadically, or not at all, after they earn tenure.)

New evaluation systems will require discussion and agreement on the components of an individual teacher’s evaluation as well as how it will then be used. On the latter point, TNTP believes that teachers deemed ineffective, after a certain amount of time, should be fired and that teachers deemed highly effective should be rewarded.

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Sarah Butrymowicz oversees and contributes to The Hechinger Report’s investigative and data work covering all levels of education, from early childhood to K-12 to higher education. She has worked at...

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