What’s Right for Compensation and Evaluation?

Kapplerhewitt-k120x148A number of sessions at the upcoming ASCD Annual Conference in San Francisco focus on teacher evaluation, and there is a push in Race to the Top states to tie teacher evaluation to student learning data.

Interestingly, in most districts, teacher evaluations and teacher compensation are unrelated. Indeed, most districts base teacher compensation on years of experience and highest degree earned.

According to a synthesis of research (PDF) conducted by the Center for Educator Compensation Reform, the “majority of studies conclude that teacher education and experience are not strong predictors of teacher effectiveness, as measured by student achievement gains.” (p. 1.)

Although I wonder whether achievement gains are the right/only measure to use, it does seem difficult to defend teacher compensation based solely on years of experience and highest degree earned when research does not support the wisdom of doing so.

On what factors or elements should teacher compensation be based? To what degree and in what ways should teacher evaluation and compensation be linked?

Post submitted by Kimberly Kappler Hewitt, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at Oakwood City Schools in Dayton, OH, and a 2011 ASCD Annual Conference Scholar.


  1. You have 3 questions here:
    1) Should teacher compensation be linked to teacher evaluation?
    2) Should teacher compensation be linked to student achievement based on test scores?
    3) Should teacher compensation be linked to teacher experience and education?
    I don’t understand why people take such a narrow view of teacher effectiveness through student achievement as defined through test scores. Many districts are using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching (as published by ASCD) as an instrument for teacher evaluation. Among the 4 domains and 22 components, not a single area mentions student test scores or even student achievement. This is because effective teaching is only a SMALL PART of a student’s achievment success.

  2. We have been looking for ways to evaluate teachers for several centuries in North America, Britain, and elsewhere. I think the pursuit is a worthy one since good teaching does matter but there are NO MAGIC BULLETS. If it was not complex we might have found something useful by now. The obsession with test score has not worked when you use international comparisons.
    I remember reading somewhere about a principal’s advice to his teachers:
    “Work hard, care about the kids and have a good reason for doing what you do in your class.” A good place to start i think.

  3. Wise words John! I totally agree. Even if you have a good appraisal system with rubrics and all,the evaluation is still subjective. I’ll promote that quote in our next school meeting!

  4. The problem with almost all evaluation systems is that they revolve around someone “grading” or assessing the teacher–and usually that someone has not spent much time teaching recently. It just doesn’t make any sense. We are just beginning to move toward proficiency based models of instruction for students, wouldn’t something similar work for teachers? Using test scores, principals, or surveys is not the answer. All of those things can provide meaningful feedback, but wouldn’t it be better to base pay on what teacher’s can demonstrate through a proficiency portfolio of some kind?
    The National Board Certification route has demonstrated again and again that the process is highly correlated to increases in student learning. A model is already out there. We need to find what is working and expand/develop it. Just because technology has created new ways to judge teachers with test score data doesn’t mean we should use that information compensation. Let’s use it to provide meaningful feedback, but let’s keep compensation in the teacher’s control–that’s why years of experience, credits earned, teacher leader experiences, and proficiency portfolios still make sense to me.


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