Pointing teachers in the wrong direction: understanding Louisiana elementary teachers’ use of Compass high-stakes teacher evaluation data

  • Timothy G. FordEmail author


Spurred by Race to the Top, efforts to improve teacher evaluation systems have provided states with an opportunity to get teacher evaluation right. Despite the fact that a core reform area of Race to the Top was the use of teacher evaluation to provide on-going and meaningful feedback for instructional decision making, we still know relatively little about how states’ responses in this area have led to changes in teachers’ use of these sources of data for instructional improvement. Self-determination theory (SDT) and the concept of functional significance was utilized as a lens for understanding and explaining patterns of use (or non-use) of Compass-generated evaluation data by teachers over a period of 3 years in a diverse sample of Louisiana elementary schools. The analysis revealed that the majority of teachers exhibited either controlled or amotivated functional orientations to Compass-generated information, and this resulted in low or superficial use for improvement. Perceptions of the validity/utility of teacher evaluation data were critical determinants of use and were multifaceted: In some cases, teachers had concerns about how state and district assessments would harm vulnerable students, while some questioned the credibility and/or fairness of the feedback. These perceptions were compounded by (a) the lack of experience of evaluators in evaluating teachers with more specialized roles in the school, such as special education teachers; (b) a lack of support in terms of training on Compass and its processes; and (c) lack of teacher autonomy in selecting appropriate assessments and targets for Student Learning Target growth.


Data-driven decision-making Data use Teacher motivation Self-determination theory Teacher evaluation Instructional improvement 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Jeannine Rainbolt College of EducationUniversity of OklahomaTulsaUSA

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