Study: Observation can identify effective teachers

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Classroom observation is a valid way to identify effective teachers, a study in Cincinnati concluded, although the method may not capture the full range of differences among teachers, according to a report in Education Next magazine.

The study focused on the Cincinnati Teacher Evaluation System, in which teachers are evaluated up to four times each year through classroom observations by trained, independent peer evaluators and a local school administrator, according to the report.

The study found that a student assigned to a teacher who ranked in the top quartile based on classroom observations performed, on average, two to three percentile points higher on state tests at the end of the school year than one assigned to a teacher in the bottom quartile, according to Education Next. That assumes that the students began the school year at the same academic level, the report noted.

The authors point out that the Cincinnati system of evaluation differs greatly from “perfunctory” evaluations that are common in many school districts, which have led some to say that classroom observation is not a valid method to assess teacher effectiveness, Education Week reported.

Cincinnati’s system rates teachers on specific teaching practices.

Education Next, “Study Finds Rigorous Classroom Observations Can Identify Effective Teachers,” April 26, 2011

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “A Meritorious Idea: Oscoda Schools Pioneers Teacher Evaluation Program