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Evaluating America’s Teachers

Evaluating America’s Teachers
Mission Possible?

April 2013 | 200 pages | Corwin

When teacher evaluations are fair, everyone wins.

Poor evaluation systems don’t just hurt teachers—they hurt students, too. That’s why America can’t afford to wait for the teacher-evaluation problem to be solved. To provide balanced, accurate, and rigorous evaluations that take into account each teacher’s particular circumstances, only one system can work: evidence-governed collegial judgment.

As states and schools scramble to find workable responses to accountability mandates, well-informed educators can make key contributions. Start here with

  • A discussion of common evaluation systems, including testing, value-added models, and observations
  • Analysis of federal guidelines and state responses
  • Action steps teachers and school leaders can take to influence policy
  • A clear rationale and strategies for implementing a teacher evaluation model based on human judgment

Evaluating America’s Teachers demonstrates that the vision is possible: effective teacher evaluations that benefit schools as a whole.

“Teachers, administrators, and policy makers rejoice! Here is a single book, from a nationally recognized scholar, that makes sense of the issues involved with the evaluation of teachers.”
—David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus
Arizona State University

“Once again Jim Popham has brought insight and clarity to a complex topic that only a person of his stature and expertise could provide.”
—Robert J. Marzano, CEO
Marzano Research Laboratory

“In an effective and diplomatic manner, Jim suggests concrete ways policymakers, along with local school leaders and teachers, can make sure our students are protected from summative teacher-evaluation systems that do more harm than good. No one should make policy at any level or strive to build a defensible teacher evaluation system without studying this book.”
—Rick Stiggins, Retired Executive Director
Assessment Training Institute

1. What Underlies the Tightening of Today's Teacher-Evaluation Programs?
What Uncle Sam Wants

A Federal Vision of Teacher Evaluation

What Could Go Wrong?

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

2. Human Judgment: Needed or Not?
Human Judgment's Role

Evaluation Basics

What about the Evaluation of Teachers?

Judgment-Requisite Choices

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

3. Defensible Teacher Evaluation
The Wonders of Whereas

Why Use a Weighted-Evidence Judgmental Approach to Teacher Evaluation?

A Weighted-Evidence Judgment Evaluative Survey

Who Are the Judges?

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

4. Evidence from Standardized Tests
Key Testing Tenets

Why We Test

A Psychometric Blessed Trinity

Standardized Test- Two Tribes, Two Tasks

Traditional Test-Building and Its Off-Task Allure

The Origins of Traditional Educational Testing

Dealing with Effective Instruction

Ensuring Score-Spread from the Get-Go

Instructional Sensitivity as a Requisite

Returning to Validity

Evidential-Weight Guidelines

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

5. Evidence from Classroom Assessments
Staking Out the Nature of "Classroom Assessment"

A Quest for Evidence of Student Growth

Formative and Summative Applications

Enhancing the Quality of Classroom-Assessment Evidence

Evidence of a Teacher's Instructional Ability

What's Assessed

The Traditional Psychometric Triplets

Following Test Development, Improvement, and Scoring Rules

Have Teachers Played it Straight?

Evidential-Weight Guidelines

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

6. Evidence from Classroom Observations
What's Distinctive about Classroom Observations?

Observations Versus Ratings

Playing the Odds: Observation of Instructional Means

An Observational Reality: The Mysterious Middle Group

Getting the Most Evaluative Mileage Out of Classroom Observation Evidence

Two Widely-Used Observation Procedures

Danielson's Framework for Teaching

The Marzano Model

Evidential-Weight Guidelines

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

7. Evidence from Ratings
Rooting Around with Ratings

Lurking Comparisons

Amalgam Judgments

Three Flavors of Bias

Administrators' Ratings

Students' Ratings

Making Ratings Righteous

The Rating Form

Rater Preparation

The Old and the New

Evidential-Weight Guidelines

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

8. Evidence from Sundry Sources
Alternative Sources of Evidence for Evaluating Teachers

Academic Achievements

Changes in Students' Affect

Lesson Plans

Opportunity-to-Learn Student Surveys

Parental Engagement

Parent Ratings

Professional Development

Ratings by Colleagues

Student Interviews

Teacher-Made Tests

Teachers' Self-Ratings

Augmentation or Obfuscation?

Evidential-Weight Guidelines

Chapter Implications for Three Audiences

9. Mission Possible?
Weighted-Evidence Judgment of Teachers: A Reprise

What To Do- And How?

Chapter Imlpications for Three Audiences

Responding to a Subtitle


"In Evaluating America's Teachers, Jim Popham brings clarity to the critically important and divisive issue of teacher evaluation. Drawing on a deep reservoir of technical knowledge in assessment and evaluation, Dr. Popham uniquely combines expertise, perspective, and wisdom to present an authentic path forward for policymakers, administrators, and teachers to address the evaluation of teachers in ways that honor the work they do with children in classrooms. If we commit to the disciplined thought and action called for in this eminently readable book, America's teachers and children will thrive."

Dawson R. Orr, Superintendent of Schools
Highland Park ISD, Dallas, Texas

"Evaluating America’s Teachers by James Popham is an enlightening description of methods utilized to evaluate teachers, with strengths and weaknesses described for each method. Federal mandates have positioned teachers on the receiving end of evaluations that are poorly understood in terms of reliability, validity, and bias. This book provides insight on teacher evaluation not only for teachers, but administrators and policy makers as well. It informs readers of the essentials involved in teacher evaluation."

Hector Ibarra, Middle School Teacher
Belin Blank International Center for Gifted Education & Talent Development, Iowa City, IA

"Once again Jim Popham has brought insight and clarity to a complex topic that only a person of his stature and expertise could provide."

Robert J. Marzano, CEO
Marzano Research Laboratory

"I believe the book will be a very good resource to educators. This book focuses on the hottest topic in the field of education right now and the author clearly has a great deal of experience with the subject. In addition, his use of humor makes the book an enjoyable read."

Dr. Peter DeWitt, Corwin Author and Elementary School Principal
Averill Park Central School District, Albany, NY

"This book hits squarely on a topic for which district and state policy makers need current information. It is too bad this book was not out during the roll out of teacher evaluations in states everywhere. I am sure the author's wisdom could have certainly helped in selecting tests that effectively measure teacher effectiveness."

John Robinson, Principal
Discovery High School, Newton, NC

"I could see using this text in a book study with my administrative team as we discuss how we can ensure effectiveness in our assessments of classroom performance. His explanation of what to look at for evidentiary source makes more sense than anything the state put out, but in the end, the state will dictate a good part of what will be used in the evaluation."

Martin Hudacs, Superintendent
Solanco School, Quarryville, PA

"I see Evaluating America's Teachers: Mission Possible? as a direct attempt to address this controversial issue head on. In this book the author addresses the need for teacher accountability and addresses the hurdles and pitfalls which are often encountered in states and school districts attempts to develop a comprehensive and all encompassing fair teacher evaluation process."

Carl J. Weingartner, Corwin Author and Retired Principal
Albuquerque, NM

"I find the book to be an interesting and effective guide to help a state or school district purse a teacher evaluation process that can measure the true progress of a teacher's competence and value."

Carl J. Weingartner, Corwin Author and Retired Principal
Albuquerque, NM

"I like many of his proposals about the format of a quality teacher evaluation system. As a New York state high school principal, I feel our state is working to put many of these recommendations into practice."

David G. Daniels, High School Principal
Susquehanna Valley Senior High School, Conklin, NY

"It is an incredible discussion of the problem. VERY in-depth and comprehensive. It really is one of the best summaries of testing I have ever read, and it makes an incredible case for improving the teacher evaluation dilemma"

Joe Crawford, Corwin author and Consultant
Freeport, IL
Key features
  • Clear and specific discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of common evaluation systems such as testing, value added models, and observations.
  • Cases and examples drawn from the author's experience
  • Clear and engaging writing style

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