Component 1: Specifying Evaluation System Goals

Goal-setting is an imperative, and often challenging, first step in designing a teacher evaluation system. The establishment of explicit, well-defined goals lays the foundation for a comprehensive, sustainable evaluation system. Some states have defined teacher evaluation goals and purposes in recent legislation and/or policy.

In most scenarios, however, stakeholders are left to define effective teaching and achieve consensus on the evaluation system’s purpose. There is a general tendency to oversimplify this crucial step; however, agreement about goal selection focuses and guides all decisions throughout the design process. The methods and weighting used for various components of the resulting system and any actions informed by evaluation results (e.g., professional development targeted to a challenge area) should reflect the evaluation system goals.

Component 1a: Establishing Standards

After the goals and purposes of an evaluation system are determined, the state or district needs to ensure alignment between these goals and teacher standards. This task often begins with defining the term effective teacher, then breaking that definition into teacher standards, competencies, and achievement-related outcomes.

Most states already have teacher standards in place, for use in hiring and traditional evaluation processes. However, Race to the Top requirements and potential forthcoming mandates in the reauthorization of ESEA demand evaluation systems with the capacity to determine teacher effectiveness through measures of teacher performance and student growth.

As states and districts move toward aligned evaluation systems with a dual focus in accountability and professional growth, meaningful professional learning opportunities that improve teacher effectiveness will need to take place. Establishing professional learning standards, such as Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning, can provide direction in designing, implementing, and evaluating high-quality professional learning activities that contribute to teacher and student growth.

For a more detailed discussion of these topics, see the full downloadable Acrobat version of A Practical Guide to Designing Comprehensive Teacher Evaluation Systems.

System goals and purposes

Guiding Questions

Goal definition

Guiding Questions

Goal alignment

Guiding Questions

Definition of effective teacher

Guiding Questions

Teaching standards

Guiding Questions

Professional learning standards

Guiding Questions

  • Have the goals and purposes of the evaluation system been determined?
  • What type of impact do stakeholders hope to achieve (e.g., better teacher retention, improved student test scores, increased teacher capacity)?
  • Will teacher evaluation results be used for personnel and compensation decisions?
  • Will teacher evaluation results be used to improve teacher practice?
  • Will teachers be held accountable for student academic growth?
  • What type of reform efforts are most important to the teachers union? (if applicable)
  • Will incentives be offered to teachers according to performance?
  • Will support be available for teachers identified in need?
  • What financial and human capital resources are available?
  • Are state teacher performance standards established?
  • Are the goals explicit, well-defined, and clearly articulated for stakeholders?
  • Are the goals stated in measurable terms?
  • Can a model of teacher evaluation conceivably meet these goals?
  • Do all the training and explanatory materials portray a consistent message?
  • Have the evaluation system goals been aligned to the state strategic plan or other teacher reform initiatives?
  • Are there other teacher quality initiatives occurring within the state?
  • How will the efforts in teacher evaluation affect other quality initiatives (e.g., curriculum, professional learning, certification)?
  • How can reform efforts be aligned to create a coherent system?
  • Is there flexibility for district input/alignment with district initiatives?
  • Has the state defined what constitutes an effective teacher?
  • Will the state or district go beyond a teacher's ability to improve student learning in its definition of an effective teacher?
  • Will the use of evidence-based teaching practices be a factor in identifying an effective teacher?
  • Will behavioral and social outcomes be a factor in identifying an effective teacher?
  • Will effective collaboration be a contributing factor in identifying an effective teacher?
  • Will a teacher's professionalism be a factor in identifying an effective teacher?
  • What characteristics, behaviors, and values should a highly effective teacher demonstrate?
  • What type of classroom environment should a teacher create in his or her classroom?
  • Should a highly effective teacher demonstrate leadership? If so, what might that look like?
  • What content knowledge do the teachers need to translate to their students?
  • Has the state established teaching standards?
  • Are there existing state teaching standards that can be used to guide system development?
  • Are the standards written in a manner that reflects measures of teacher performance and student growth?
  • Do the standards explicitly define desired teaching competencies?
  • Have levels of teaching performance been established within the standards?
  • Have the standards been written in a manner in which evaluation system results will yield reliable information on teacher performance according to the identified standards?
  • Have sample performance indicators been developed to provide examples of observable behavior?
  • Was public comment a step in developing teaching standards?
  • Has the state, or districts within the state, established high-quality standards for professional learning?
  • Do evaluation systems include professional learning and teacher development as a measure or consideration in teacher evaluation?
  • To what extent do the professional learning opportunities that teachers receive meet the standards?
  • Do all teachers in the state receive high-quality professional learning throughout their careers?
  • What type and amount of resources are necessary to support
    high-quality teacher learning?
  • Are professional learning activities informed by research-based principles of teacher learning?
  • How do you assess a schools' professional learning community?


Toward the Effective Teaching of New College- and Career-Ready Standards: Making Professional Learning Systemic (Research-to-Practice Brief)

This brief describes how a coordinated system of human capital improvement can support quality professional learning opportunities in line with new
college- and career-ready standards. In particular, the brief discusses how state-level professional development policy, teacher certification policy, teacher evaluation policy, and teacher compensation policy can align to build a professional learning system. Throughout the brief, examples are provided to demonstrate state effort in ensuring that all teachers are equipped to prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century.

Linking Teacher Evaluation to Professional Development: Focusing on Improving Teaching and Learning (Research & Policy Brief)

This brief outlines six major components of an aligned teacher evaluation and professional learning system: teaching standards; multiple measures of teacher performance; training on standards, tools, and measures; trained individuals to evaluate and provide feedback; professional learning opportunities; and professional learning standards. The brief offers states an informal framework for designing teacher evaluation systems that use evidence gathered from evaluations to inform decisions around professional learning opportunities that will improve teacher practice and student learning.

Approaches to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: A Research Synthesis

This research synthesis examines how teacher effectiveness is measured and provides practical guidance for evaluating teacher effectiveness. It evaluates the research on teacher effectiveness and various measures. In addition, it defines components and indicators that characterize effective teachers, extending this definition beyond teachers’ contributions to student achievement gains to include how teachers affect classrooms, schools, and colleagues as well as how teachers contribute to other important outcomes for students.

Methods of Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

This brief is intended to help regional comprehensive centers and state policymakers as they consider evaluation methods to clarify policy, develop new strategies, identify effective teachers, or guide and support districts in selecting and using appropriate evaluation methods for various purposes. Included in this brief is a five-point definition of teacher effectiveness the authors developed by analyzing research, policy, and standards that address teacher effectiveness and by consulting experts in the field.

A Practical Guide to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness

This guide offers a definition of teacher effectiveness that states and districts may adapt to meet local requirements, provides an overview of the many purposes for evaluating teacher effectiveness, and indicates which measures are most suitable to use under different circumstances. The guide also includes summaries of various measures, such as value-added models, classroom observations, analysis of classroom artifacts, and portfolios. The summaries include descriptions of the measures, along with a note about the research base and strengths and cautions to consider for each measure.

Challenges in Evaluating Special Educators and English Language Specialists (Research & Policy Brief)

This brief provides the results of an inquiry conducted by the TQ Center with support from the Council for Exceptional Children and several national experts in the context of current research and practice in teacher evaluation. It offers policy and practice recommendations for regions, states, and districts to help in their efforts to create valid, reliable, and comprehensive evaluation systems for all teachers as they work to improve the achievement of all students.


The GTL Center is building an online repository of expert panel reviews of
real-life teacher evaluation models operated by districts throughout the country.

For each district included, you can view, per component, a description of how that district approached the many issues involved.

To view these real-life models, visit the Teacher Evaluation Models in Practice portion of the GTL Center website.

  • First, click on View the Models in the table of contents.
  • Click one or more districts.
  • Then, select Component 1.