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Approaches to Evaluating

Important Definitions and Specifications


Evaluating teachers can be approached from three different but related angles: measurement of inputs, processes, and outputs. Inputs are what a teacher brings to his or her position, generally measured as teacher background, beliefs, expectations, experience, pedagogical and content knowledge, certification and licensure, and educational attainment. These measures are sometimes discussed in the literature as teacher quality; for instance, the NCLB requirement for highly qualified teachers refers specifically to teacher qualifications and credentials. Processes, on the other hand, refers to the interaction that occurs in a classroom between teachers and students. It also may include a teachers professional activities within the larger school and community, but for the purposes of this research synthesis, classroom processes are the focus. Outputs represent the results of classroom processes, such as impact on student achievement, graduation rates, student behavior, engagement, attitudes, and social-emotional well-being. Other outcomes may involve contributions to the school or community in the form of taking on school leadership roles, educating other teachers, or strengthening relationships with parents, but again for the purposes of this research synthesis, student outcomes are the focus. Outputs can be referred to as teacher effectiveness, although as discussed in the following section, teacher effectiveness as used in the research literature is often limited to mean impact on student achievement specifically.

Defining Teacher Effectiveness

Clarifying the way teacher effectiveness is defined is important for two main reasons. First, what is measured is a reflection of what is valued, and as a corollary, what is measured is valued. Definitions nominate and shape what needs to be measured. If, for example, policy conversations revolve around scores from standardized tests, the significant outcomes can be narrowed to those that can be measured with standardized test scores. On the other hand, when policy conversations concern the interactions between teachers and students, the focus shifts to classrooms and documenting effective interactions among teachers and their students. In addition, different definitions lead to different policy solutions. When the conversation focuses on teacher quality, the discussion likely turns to improving teachers scores on measures of knowledge or on signals of that knowledge, such as certification. When classroom processes are discussed, particular practices or approaches to teaching become the focus. Given the importance of these distinctions, this research synthesis uses the term teacher effectiveness but does so with a much broader definition than is typically associated with that term in current policy conversations. In the remainder of this section, a more nuanced definition of teacher effectiveness is provided; this definition includes the varied roles teachers play as well as the varied student outcomes education stakeholders value.