The Evaluative Criteria, or the “What”
The cornerstone of any evaluation system is the set of evaluative criteria on which a school or district bases its teacher evaluations. How should we judge a teacher's performance? Determining the criteria is not the same thing as developing an evaluation system; however, no evaluation system is complete without a set of clear, unambiguous criteria that, taken together, define good teaching.
What, then, constitutes excellence (or adequacy) in teaching? By what criteria do we define superior teaching? When a teacher earns a reputation in a community for being a wonderful educator, when administrators receive more requests for placement into that teacher's classes than they can handle, when a teacher is highly respected by colleagues—on what basis do people make such judgments? Do students in those classes have a lot of fun? Do they participate in exciting activities? Do they normally do extremely well on the state assessment?
Alternatively, when a teacher acquires a reputation, among both students and parents, for poor teaching, on what is that reputation based? It might reflect inconsistent or unfair grading standards, or the display of favoritism in classroom interactions. It might be a consequence of unclear explanations of concepts or procedures, so students don't have a good understanding of the content. Or, the reputation might develop over many years, if the students of a particular teacher consistently do poorly on a state's assessment. Clearly, when students, parents, and administrators make judgments about teaching, they base their assessment on evidence of performance. These judgments may be informal, but they are judgments nonetheless.
Standards of teaching state what teachers should know and be able to do in the exercise of their profession. People express this concept in one of two fundamental ways: in terms of what teachers do, or in terms of the results they achieve. The former could be called “inputs”—an enumeration of teacher tasks reflecting all the complexity of the work. (These lists of tasks need not be checklists of specific types of behavior, but they identify all the different aspects of teaching that yield high levels of student learning.) The latter, on the other hand, can be considered “outputs”—the results teachers achieve in their work, for example in the extent of student learning or