New guidance to ensure that every teacher grows—and every student succeeds


By Lynn Olson

To realize their full potential, students need access to excellent teachers. And excellent teachers need meaningful feedback to help them grow in their practice. In this way, giving teachers feedback and support ultimately benefits students and drives student success. States and districts across the country have worked hard to build systems aimed at doing just that: providing teachers with the supports they need to advance student learning.

Now, with a new national education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which Congress passed at the end of 2015—states and districts have an important opportunity to take a fresh look at their teacher evaluation and support systems, try new approaches, and ensure that their policies truly support educators and students. There are several new resources to help leaders leverage this critical opportunity to improve their teacher evaluation systems:

  • The Council of Chief State School Officers recently published Principles for Teacher Support and Evaluation Systems, which state leaders can consider as they design and refine systems for teacher feedback and development. These principles include integrating evaluation and support into broader efforts to improve teaching and learning; focusing on continuously improving teacher practice; and ensuring that the system is fair, credible, and transparent.
  • The Aspen Institute Education & Society Program studied states and districts around the country—from DC to Colorado—to see how they continuously refine and adapt their teacher evaluation systems to meet evolving needs. Teacher Evaluation & Support Systems: A Roadmap for Improvement culls from these systems’ best practices and offers 10 recommendations to help states and districts move their systems forward under ESSA.
  • New America’s recent report, Beyond Ratings: Re-envisioning State Teacher Evaluation Systems as Tools for Professional Growth, examines why teacher development is still largely missing from conversations about—and many teachers’ experience of—evaluation. The report pinpoints three key elements that can strengthen the link between evaluation and professional development: two-way communication, data-driven support, and ongoing monitoring.
  • Teacher development is also the focus of Moving from Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work, a new report from Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. This resource shares findings from interviews with teachers and school leaders about their professional learning, and it identifies actions leaders can take to give teachers more agency in their development process.