Over the past three years, more than twenty US states have passed legislation establishing new teacher evaluation requirements and systems, and even more have committed to do so in Race to the Top or Elementary and Secondary Education Act Flexibility Waiver applications. These new evaluation systems have real potential to foster a more performance-oriented public education culture that gives teachers meaningful feedback about the quality and impact of their work. But there are pitfalls in states’ rush to legislate new systems, and there are real tensions and trade-offs in their design.
Unfortunately, much of the current policy debate has been framed in stark ideological terms that leave little room for adult discussion of these tensions. This paper seeks to move the debate beyond ideology and technical issues by highlighting four key tensions that policymakers, advocates, and educators must consider in the development of new teacher evaluations: