Iowa: Student Surveys & Teacher Evaluations
  • By admin
  • February 18, 2020

By Grace Shelton


State Spotlight: Iowa and the Use of Student Surveys in Teacher Professional Practice Evaluations

Recently, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its annual State of the States report for the year 2019. In this report, state teacher and principal policies were evaluated and compared to one another in order to determine which states meet, approach, or do not meet certain goals on teacher and principal quality. The report links to a database that allows readers to compare different states on a variety of different measures. Upon looking at measures of professional practice for teachers, we find interesting similarities to indicate that the use of surveys in evaluation lead to better state-level teacher quality outcomes. There is one state in particular that is highlighted by NCTQ for best practices: Iowa. Iowa meets all of NCTQ’s requirements to enhance professional practice goals through the use of qualified observers, feedback, and survey data. 

Iowa Survey Policies

Before examining Iowa’s policies on survey usage, it’s important to first look at how NCTQ determines whether or not states are successful in professional practice goals. NCTQ scores states based on observations, student surveys, certified evaluators, and multiple or third-party observers. For observations, states should “explicitly require teachers to be observed in the classroom” in order to receive points. With surveys, the state should require or explicitly allow student surveys to be included in its teacher evaluation systems. NCTQ also requires states to require classroom evaluators to be trained to a high level of reliability and that the state uses multiple observers with demonstrated subject-matter expertise. 

Survey data matters to NCTQ because, as stated in the report, “student feedback surveys correlate with student learning gains”. However, in this case, it appears they also allow states to improve professional practice systems as well. Iowa’s best practice lies in their requirement that classroom observations for all teachers are conducted only by trained evaluators and that surveys from parents, students, and other teachers be considered in overall evaluation scores. According to the Iowa Department of Education, evaluation is a consistent, ongoing process that requires the gathering of multiple forms of evidence. Iowa requires teachers to provide substantial proof of their ability to meet professional educator standards, reflect on their practice, collaborate with colleagues in the interest of student learning, and constantly seek and use feedback from others (presumably through observations and surveys).

Iowa Teaching Standards

When examining Iowa’s teaching standards more closely, it is easy to see how gathering feedback from students and families would provide the evidence teachers need to show evaluators their professional practice growth. The Iowa Teaching Standards are divided into eight sections, each with a list of criteria that must be met. For example, Standard 1 requires teachers to “demonstrate the ability to enhance academic performance and support for implementation of the school district’s student achievement goals”. Criteria for this standard include using multiple forms of evidence of student learning, implementing strategies to support students, using student performance data, participating in school culture, and communicating with families and colleagues accurately. Perhaps the most important criteria for the usage of surveys is listed under Standard 8, which requires teachers to fulfill professional responsibilities outlined by the district. In order to meet this standard, educators must, “collaborate with students, families, colleagues, and communities to enhance student learning.” 

There are many teacher policies examined in NCTQ’s State of the States 2019 report. Iowa certainly has not met every single one of the goals outlined in the research. However, it appears that in professional practice, Iowa is exceeding. Much of this can be attributed to a specific and actionable evaluation system, and much of it can be attributed to the use of surveys in order to improve practice. Hopefully, Iowa will continue to build on the strengths highlighted by NCTQ to continue improving on all goals in years to come. 


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