College of Education research finds principals’ teacher evaluations accurate after completing professional training

The Network for Educator Effectiveness was created in 2011 with the help of Christi Bergin, research professor in the College of Education.
Graphic by Gillian Smith

Upon completion of MU’s Network for Educator Effectiveness training, high school principals were found to have high accuracy in completing teacher evaluations, according to research from the College of Education.

NEE was created in 2011 by members of the College of Education. The training program provides multiple ways to gauge educator effectiveness, including student surveys, professional development plans and classroom observations of teachers. NEE then provides professional development trainings for teacher evaluators. The in-person training sessions are held in multiple locations throughout Missouri.

1,324 principals in Missouri were sampled to rate six teaching practices after completing NEE training. Though the study found there was high overall accuracy in principal evaluation ratings, individual accuracy varied substantially.

The study also found that different teaching practices within the classroom were more difficult to accurately assess than others. Formative assessments were found to be most difficult to evaluate, and critical thinking practices were easiest.

Christi Bergin, research professor in the College of Education, is a co-founder of NEE and an author of the study on teacher evaluations that used data from NEE. Bergin said this online resource allows evaluators to assess qualities of teachers in various aspects of strengths and areas for improvement.

“Every professional has room to grow and improve, so this is an opportunity for principals to identify what areas that the teachers in their building are particularly strong on, [and] what areas they need to grow in,” Bergin said. “That’s only useful insofar as the principals are actually accurate.”

More than 30,000 teachers and around 1,500 principals in Missouri use NEE as an evaluation resource, Bergin said. About half of Missouri, 267 school districts, uses NEE.

Hickman High School’s Principal Tony Gragnani and his four assistant principals were trained using NEE in summer 2017. This is the first school year that the Columbia School District has used NEE. The Hickman administration’s goal is to visit each teacher at least four times per year. Gragnani said this increase in visibility can help make teachers more comfortable with evaluations.

“The more [teachers] can see [the administration], the more they get comfortable with us,” Gragnani said. “I think it opens up a venue or a pathway for us to give good feedback where a teacher doesn’t have to worry about their job, and more just see us as instructional coaches.”

The next topic of research for Bergin will be how accurate principals are when evaluating teachers once they return from training. This data will be obtained through NEE and then compared to evaluator accuracy measurements after they complete NEE training.

“Principals are governed by motives besides just strict accuracy, like keeping their teachers motivated and building trust and positive relationships,” Bergin said.

Bergin said NEE benefits MU by accomplishing the school’s research-based mission. MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright announced on Feb. 27 that the university plans to double research funding to “boost MU’s impact on the state, nation and world,” according to a Columbia Missourian article.

NEE data has been helpful in creating multiple published studies. Additionally, Bergin said NEE satisfies MU’s goal of public service by improving evaluations for the entire education system.

“One of the other goals of MU is to provide community service and outreach to strengthen the community, to share our research and [improve] the well-being of students and teachers and principals across the state and the country,” Bergin said. “NEE helps to do that. It strengthens our schools, it strengthens our principal’s capacities to be instructional leaders and it improves the quality of teaching.”

Edited by Morgan Smith |

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