Why teacher evaluations can be a powerful practice for both educators and students.

High quality teaching instruction is one of the most, if not the most, impactful elements on students’ levels of achievement. In 2007, Barber and Mourshed published a study that examined the best school systems in the world, or rather the school systems where student achievement was found to be extremely high. These rates of achievement were determined by PISA, an international exam that is used to compare countries’ education systems. The best school systems included ones found in Japan, Finland, and Massachusetts.

Barber and Mourshed examined why, out of all systems in the world, these ones were the best. What made these schools so successful? Was it longer school days? More money? Smaller class sizes? In the end, they found out that the most significant commonality that these high-achieving school systems shared was their emphasis on excellent classroom instruction. They all provided their teachers with professional development, provided mentoring and coaching, encouraged collaboration, shared best practices, and conducted meaningful educator evaluations (Barber and Mourshed, 2007).

These systems, found Barber and Mourshed, used evaluations to help teachers understand their strengths and identify areas that they needed to grow in. These evaluations were used to help teachers reflect on their practice, showcase areas of excellence, and get support on areas they wanted help in.  It was found that when conducted purposefully and with the ultimate goal of student achievement in mind, teacher evaluations are a powerful tool.

However, many schools do not conduct teacher evaluations, and many who do conduct evaluations do not necessarily do so effectively. There are many reasons for this. A primary factor is time: evaluating every teacher at a school site multiple times a year and making sure the evaluations are in-depth and meaningful is very time consuming. With so much on their plates already, many administrators do not have time to do these comprehensive evaluations. Another reason is organization: with evaluations comes a plethora of paperwork. It can be hard to keep track of goals, of who has finished what step in the process, who needs to improve in what area, and who is excelling in their practice.

What are your opinions about teacher evaluations? Do you think they are beneficial? We would love to hear your thoughts!

By Mary Conroy Almada


Barber, M., & Mourshed, M. (2007). How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top. Boston: McKinsey & Company.

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Categories: Academic Research, Best Practices, Teacher Effectiveness