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Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges

reviewed by Peter Youngs & Hannah Mathews - August 09, 2016

coverTitle: Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges
Author(s): Kate E. O’Hara
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433123541, Pages: 212, Year: 2015
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Kate E. OHaras edited book Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges brings together timely and insightful analyses of current approaches to evaluating teachers including value-added models (VAMs), portfolios, and classroom observations. A key strength of this volume is its focus on the consequential validity and practical implications of these evaluation instruments for teachers and other people working with them. The book addresses three broad domains: (a) critiques of current teacher evaluation practices, (b) analyses of their effects on classroom instruction and teacher preparation, and (c) directions for future policy and practice. OHara introduces her volume by arguing that a corrective is needed to neoliberal policymaking represented by the federal Race to the Top (RttT) legislation. The chapters in this volume diagnose shortcomings in current teacher evaluation practices and identify promising ways for educators, researchers, and policymakers to respond.


Two of the most prominent and controversial approaches to teacher evaluation are VAMs and portfolios. An important contribution of this book is it addresses both of these approaches in multiple chapters from a range of perspectives. For example, Chapter Three raises concerns about VAMs defining and measuring effective teaching and argues that such conceptions are not consistent with knowledge about teaching and learning derived from research. Chapter Four asks whether VAMs can sufficiently account for the presence of students with disabilities, English language learners (ELLs), or students with a host of other challenges. Chapter Two explicates edTPA tasks and rubrics and contends that this approach to portfolio assessment fails to measure several aspects of effective teaching like teacher attitudes and dispositions. Chapter Five, co-written by two teacher educators and a teaching candidate, contrasts this by reflecting these authors direct experience with edTPA and ways in which this assessment process constrains their work.


The three chapters in the third section of the book introduce compelling ideas regarding how teacher evaluation might move forward. Chapter Eight is based on a study of instructional practices in three all-male schools in large urban districts; the authors report that few teachers in the study enact curricular or instructional practices that are relevant to their students lives. In light of these findings, they call for strategies for evaluating and supporting teachers that go beyond current narrow approaches to accountability and effectiveness. The authors in Chapter Nine describe a method of evaluating ELL teachers that features a classroom observation instrument and student work samples. They argue that this promotes teacher reflection and acquisition of knowledge of pedagogical language. Chapter Ten employs a social therapeutic lens to offer new ways of conceptualizing teacher performance in the classroom and reframes the teacher evaluation process using a developmental mindset. As a collection, these chapters unpack alternative approaches to understanding and measuring teacher effectiveness.


Overall, Teacher Evaluation presents an important argument regarding the influence of standardized teacher evaluation as a part of the broader reform movement. However, there are some ways that the book could better address the contemporary debate regarding teacher evaluation. First, the volume could fully explore the range of classroom observation instruments now used as part of teacher evaluation. These include generic observation tools designed for teachers in all subjects and grade levels and more content specific instruments such as the Protocol for Language Arts Observations (PLATO) and Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI). Some approaches to classroom observation could be productively used to measure and promote the alternative notions of effective teaching presented throughout this text.


While a key part of this book is its concern for the ways current approaches affect teachers and their students, it could also analyze the growing use of K12 student surveys as part of teacher evaluation. Some observers note that student surveys address several aspects of instruction and classroom organization, have strong predictive validity, and are based on the reports of individuals who are with teachers for up to 180 days a year while others raise concerns about their use with young children and students with disabilities. Including the ways student K12 surveys capture student feedback and whether the inclusion of this voice is important in formative and summative evaluation of teachers might add another important dimension to the volume given the critical lens used to frame the text.


The book could further address the challenges of teacher evaluation by more deeply considering the varied roles teachers are trained for in U.S. schools. The text takes a general approach and misses an opportunity to explore the ways that specialists (e.g., special educators, interventionists) are a part of the complex teacher evaluation landscape. Considering contemporary debate regarding the fairness of teacher evaluation systems relying on a one size fits all understanding of effectiveness and discussing teacher evaluation while attending to the distinct work of these groups of teachers could strengthen the overall argument. Exploring the ways alternative approaches to teacher evaluation incorporate the professional strengths and needs of teachers with distinct expertise might be valuable in a school community and broaden the applicability of the volume.


Teacher Evaluation: The Charge and the Challenges argues for critically examining teacher evaluation and the ways it shapes pedagogy. The team of authors and editors refrain from mere protestations and address broad concerns with an eye towards change. The final chapters of the volume are beneficial in helping readers consider possibilities for teacher evaluation that grow out of the work of communities of educators. This text should be helpful reading for researchers and practitioners working to examine how educational policy is consequential for the work of teachers.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 09, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21589, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 6:07:11 PM

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About the Author
  • Peter Youngs
    University of Virginia
    E-mail Author
    PETER YOUNGS is an associate professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. His research interests focus on education policy effects on teaching and learning in the core academic subjects including state and district policy related to teacher preparation, induction, evaluation, and professional development and their effects on teachers' instructional practices, commitment to teaching, and retention in the teaching profession. Recent publications have appeared in Educational Researcher, Journal of Teacher Education, and Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education.
  • Hannah Mathews
    University of Virginia
    E-mail Author
    HANNAH MATHEWS is a PhD student in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Her research interests focus on special education teacher preparation, induction, and evaluation.
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