What District Leaders Can Do
To cultivate high-quality teaching, school leaders
need to focus on the human side of teacher assessment.
Morgaen L. Donaldson
and Gordon A. Donaldson Jr.
In our efforts to ensure that every student receives top- quality teaching, we have made substantial progress in understanding the links between teacher practice and student learning—the technical side of teacher assessment. But we have too often overlooked the human side. Also, we
have not fully appreciated the crucial role that district leaders
play in establishing the relational climate that can make or
break schools’ efforts to improve teacher quality.
to the human side of assessment—by taking five crucial steps.
Research on teaching largely addresses the measurement
of teacher effectiveness. Models of teacher performance
assessment apply this research to district supervision and evaluation policies. Although these findings are vital to successfully
assessing teacher performance, a technically valid and reliable
assessment framework will not by itself ensure the improvement
In our experience, the assessment of teacher quality fails more
often because of organizational neglect than because of technical
deficiencies. In particular, school districts have typically not
done a good job of managing the relational and political aspects
of the process. The result is usually that neither supervisors
nor teachers find performance assessment a constructive and
respectful experience. Overall, the push for “highly qualified” or
“highly effective” teachers is more often an uncomfortable, if not
inept, accountability activity rather than a systematic strategy
to support teacher development that generates superior performance—or, when a teacher hasn’t “developed,” that concludes
in a just and humane departure from the profession.
PHO TO BY KEVIN DAVIS
Five Steps to Stronger Teacher Evaluation
District leaders can cultivate high-quality teaching—and attend