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Examining the validity of ratings from a classroom observation instrument for use in a district's teacher evaluation system

Do Principals' Observation-Based Ratings of Teacher Practice Provide Sound Scores for Teacher Evaluation?

States and districts across the country are seeking to improve teacher evaluation systems, many, in part, by assessing teachers based on their teaching practices inside and outside the classroom. A new validity study by REL West examined a classroom observation instrument in one district's teacher evaluation system. The instrument was adapted from the Danielson Framework for Teaching, which groups 22 components of teaching into four domains. Whereas previous studies have examined only a portion of the Danielson Framework, typically focusing on the ratings of teahers' practices in the classroom, this study examined the full Danielson Framework, including teachers' planning for instruction and carrying out of professional responsibilities.

This study, Examining the Validity of Ratings from a Classroom Observation Instrument for Use in a District's Teacher Evaluation System, analyzed principals' ratings of more than 700 teachers in the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada, in 2012-2013. The study found that principals' ratings discriminated among teachers they thought to be effective and highly effective and they rarely identified teachers as minimally effective or ineffective. Analyses showed that within each of the four domains the ratings appeared to measure a single, cohesive trait but that the four domains were not distinct from one another. Instead, the 22 component ratings seemed to measure the same cohesive trait. Each domain rating, as well as the average rating across domains, correlated positively with student learning in reading and in math, as would be expected if the ratings were measures of teachers' effectiveness in promoting student learning. The report discusses these results in the context of other research findings from examinations of the Danielson Framework.