The Council for Exceptional Children's Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation

Article excerpt


In recent years, school reform efforts have increasingly focused on ways to evaluate and improve teacher performance. This is in part a response to recent research demonstrating that teachers are the most important school-based factor in determining student achievement (Goldhaber, 2010; Hanushek, 1998; Rice-King, 2003). But, just as research has confirmed the importance of teachers, several studies of teacher evaluation systems- the primary method of judging how teachers perform- have found that, more often than not, these systems fail to differentiate between effective and ineffective teachers, are unrelated to professional development, and do not incorporate information about teacher impact on student performance (Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling, 2009).

This research, coupled with new federal incentives, led federal and state policy makers to shift their focus in the area of teacher quality. Specifically, policies have shifted from considering whether teachers meet predetermined professional requirements, such as degrees attained, an approach embodied by the No Child Left Behind Act's "Highly Qualified" standard, to methods that incorporate performancebased measures (Holdheide, Goe, Croft, & Reschly, 2010). New policies refer to performance-based measures generally as "effectiveness" and involve redesigning and/or developing teacher evaluations.

Since 2009, CEC has worked with members and experts in the field to examine how new teacher evaluation systems impact special and gifted education teachers. In 2009, CEC convened an expert advisory group to consider the current state of teacher evaluation and the implications of new "pay for performance" systems. CEC incorporated its initial recommendations about teacher evaluation systems into CEC's ESEA Reauthorization Recommendations.

In 2012, CEC again reached out to members and experts, and based on their input drafted the following Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation. To ensure the Position met the specific needs of special education teachers, CEC solicited feedback directly from its members through its Representative Assembly, Convention Town Halls, Children and Youth Action Network (CAN) and online. CEC also collaborated with a panel of close to 40 education and policy experts who identified research, policy and practice regarding the current state of special education teacher evaluation and identified challenges and recommendations for the field. Finally, CEC's Board approved the Position on Special Education Teacher Evaluation in October of 2012. We hope you read the Position, share it with colleagues, and let us know what you think.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) recognizes the importance of special education teachers in the education of all children and youth. Special educators have always believed that children's individual learning needs should drive instruction; indeed, pedagogy is the heart of special education practice. One way to judge a special education teacher's knowledge and skill is through a thorough and valid teacher evaluation. High-quality evaluations that are rigorous, systematic, and developed collaboratively with special education teachers drive continuous improvement and excellence. The principles of good evaluation apply to all teachers. Thus, all teachers should be included in one evaluation system that is appropriately differentiated based on their professional role.

CEC believes that special education teacher evaluations are only effective if they are based on an accurate understanding of special education teachers' diverse roles, measure and support the effective use of evidence-based interventions and practices, include accurate and reliable indicators of special education teacher contributions to student growth, and promote teaching as a profession in order to address the persistent problem of special education teacher retention.

To provide the individualized, appropriate supports and services that children and youth with exceptionalities need, special education teachers deliver instruction in many different ways and through many approaches. …