REPORT: Teaching Counts: Recommendations for Reforming California’s Teacher Evaluation System


Parents know what researchers confirm: The single most important school-based factor affecting student academic performance is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.

Teachers matter because when they have high expectations of their students, their students rise to meet them. Teachers count because they not only play an important role in raising student achievement, but they also have the potential to close long-standing achievement gaps that persist between low-income students and students of color and their more advantaged peers. Teachers matter to all students, but great teaching makes the most difference for our highest need students, who are least likely to have academic supports outside of school.

Research makes it clear that students who have a series of strong teachers soar academically, while those who have a series of ineffective teachers fall behind. To ensure that our highest need students have access to effective teachers, school districts need to know where great teaching is taking place. They also need to provide feedback and supports so all teachers can reach their full potential. Robust, multiple measure teacher evaluation systems that emphasize a teacher’s impact on student performance are designed to achieve these goals.

To guarantee such systems are in place, California needs to overhaul its laws governing teacher evaluation. The state should direct school districts to implement teacher evaluation systems that, when combined with ongoing feedback and professional development, allow all teachers to improve. And the state should require that school districts use the results of evaluations to make staffing decisions based on a teacher’s effectiveness, so that all students, but especially the highest need students, have access to effective teachers.

The Education Trust—West urges California’s lawmakers to direct school districts to adopt teacher evaluation systems that are consistent, transparent, timely, meaningful, and fair. Such systems will help all teachers improve their practice, regardless of their starting point, and as a result will help all California students advance on the road toward college and career readiness.

We recommend that the state develop a framework to guide districts’ adoption of improved teacher evaluation systems. Our policy recommendations fall into four categories:

1. Standards and Criteria
2. Timelines and Processes
3. Ratings and Results
4. Using Evaluation Results to Make Staffing Decisions


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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.