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

Effective Teachers