The Evergreen Effect: Washington’s Poor Evaluation System Revealed

Charts You Can Trust | March 25, 2013
Chart showing satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance

Across the country, lawmakers are acting on increasing evidence that their teacher evaluations are virtually meaningless. They are making radical change, and incorporating objective measures like student growth. Yet many evaluation systems are failing to differentiate between great educators and those who should be dismissed.

The Evergreen Effect: Washington’s Poor Evaluation System Revealed provides the first detailed look at how an entire state, not just a handful of districts, has been evaluating teachers. In 2009 every state, including Washington, received federal stimulus money in exchange for publically reporting data on teacher and principal evaluation systems, including whether student achievement or growth was a factor, and the number of teachers rated at each performance level. Washington State was the first to report the data, and Chad Aldeman, author of The Evergreen Effect, is among the first analyze it.

Aldeman finds that nearly every school in Washington is failing to differentiate between high-performing and low-performing teachers and principals. What’s more, the vague and often euphemistic labels that districts have used to describe performance suggest that they are uncomfortable even talking about poor instruction. Early adopters of more meaningful evaluation systems in Washington show encouraging signs, but overall, the culture has changed very little.

If there is a lesson from Washington, it’s that truly meaningful improvement requires more than just tweaking requirements. “States creating meaningful evaluation systems must recognize and reward high-performers and identify low-performers,” says Aldeman.

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