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Did The Obama Administration Signal A Major Shift In Teacher Evaluation Policies Today?


Today, the Obama Administration issued new requirements pushing for an equal distribution of “excellent” teachers across all schools in all districts. How did they define an “excellent” teacher? They left a lot of room for states to make that determination, but did say what an excellent teacher is not:

Department officials also indicated what is not “excellent,” including educators in their first year of teaching, those without certification or licensure and those who are absent from class more than 10 days in a school year.

In other words, as Education Week put it:

the Obama administration directs states to focus their plans mainly on “inputs”—such as how many years of experience a teacher has—rather than “outputs,” or how effective teachers actually are at moving the needle on student achievement.

This issue of “input” versus “output” is a topic that the principal of our school, Ted Appel, and I have been discussing for quite awhile. And Ben Spielberg wrote what I think is one of the best pieces on teacher evaluation that anyone has written precisely about it (see This Is One Of The Best Pieces I’ve Read On Teacher Evaluation: “The Problem with Outcome-Oriented Evaluations”).

He described the value of evaluating inputs, as opposed to outputs. In other words, most teacher evaluation discussion is focused on measuring student outcomes. But, as Ben points out, we often have far less control over those outcomes than is believed.

I’m wondering if these new guidelines from the Administration might signal a first move towards recognizing this reality and away from blind adherence to the use of harmful methods like Value-Added Measures?

What do you think? Am I reading too much into today’s announcement?

By the way, if you’d like to read more about what Ben and others have to say about teacher evaluations, I’ve just posted the third post in my Ed Week series on the topic.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I hope you are right. We obviously have control over the inputs. I wonder though how teachers would react to “spreading the wealth”. Most teachers would say that the more years one has taught, the more choices we should have about where we teach.This is an expectation that most professionals have. The reality can be quite different.

  2. Hi Larry, I had not seen/heard about this piece from the Obama Admin regarding evaluations. Can you send me a link to where I can read the actual legislation or press release on this?

    • Wendy,

      I’m not sure where to find the original announcement, though I assume the DOE website has it. I based my post on the common points found in articles about it in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Education Week.


  3. Fewer than 10 absences would reduce to less than 50% the number of highly-effective teachers at our school site.

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