Summative season is upon us: Many school leaders will soon complete summative teacher evaluations for the 2020-2021 school year.

It has been an unusual year, to say the very least, so summative evaluations may look different than usual, but schools will still follow state and local policies to guide the summative process in 2021.

State policies: Missouri and Nebraska – the states in which the Network for Educator Effectiveness serves schools – have not waived teacher evaluation requirements for 2020-2021. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says schools should follow local board policy for evaluations, and Screen 18A data will be reported in June as normal. Nebraska continues to require classroom observations for probationary teachers once each semester.

Local policies: Summative evaluations should carry on as outlined in board policy. Some school districts require summative evaluations for every teacher, every year. Other districts have multi-year cycles for summative evaluations, particularly for non-probationary teachers. Given the unusual year, local school boards may choose to adjust evaluation cycles to carry over summative evaluations to a future year. In NEE, this means any data entered for the 2020-2021 school year will be included in the summative report when it is completed at a later date.

No matter your local approach to evaluation in 2020-2021, evaluation and feedback remain important processes for professional growth, development, and support. Even if you aren’t preparing for a typical summative process this spring, NEE encourages school leaders to meet with teachers individually to review the year, provide feedback and support, and develop a plan for professional growth moving forward.

If you will proceed with summative evaluations this spring, this post will walk you through steps to prepare your data. First, review NEE’s overarching Considerations for Teacher Summative Evaluations in 2021.

Preparing Your Data for the Teacher Summative Report

Make sure you are on track to meet the expectations set by district leadership for the number of observations, student surveys, and other evaluative measures you should complete for each teacher. You can check this information in two places in the NEE Data Tool:

  1. Look at the NEE Implementation Dashboard at the bottom of your NEE home screen. Ensure you are on track to complete the goal number of observations and other scorings.
  2. Look at your Building Activity Report under the Status Reports menu to see a breakdown of the data entered for each teacher. If data has not been entered for a teacher or teachers, the Building Activity Report will display that information at the top of the report.

By the first part of March, you should have entered all of the evaluation data you will be using for teachers’ summative reports. This includes all classroom observations, student surveys, professional development plan scorings, and unit of instruction plan scorings. The specific measures you use for evaluation depend on your district’s approach to NEE implementation. You may use all four NEE measures or just one.

Let’s review NEE’s recommendations for the formative evaluations that should take place for each measure before a teacher’s summative evaluation in the spring. A word of caution: Over the next several paragraphs, you’ll read many “shoulds.” If you followed NEE’s evaluation recommendations from the start of this school year, these are the data points that should have been entered, broken down by the teacher evaluation measures available in NEE.  After we review the recommendations, we’ll discuss what to do if you have not followed these recommendations this year and what you can do now.

Classroom Observations

Expectations may vary by district, but NEE typically recommends that each teacher is observed between 6 and 10 times per year for 10 minutes apiece. Each teacher should be evaluated on 3 to 5 priority indicators of effective teaching, as determined by school leadership. Classroom observation data should be entered for each observation, and ideally, face-to-face feedback is provided to the teacher. If your school continued in a traditional setting this school year, classroom observations should have continued on a relatively normal timeline.

Given the unusual circumstances, however, classroom observations may have looked different this year.

For remote learning environments, NEE recommended using classroom observation windows, a period of 3-4 weeks during which school leaders should collect data on teaching effectiveness. Data should come from a variety of sources – observations of a remote classroom, resources available in the LMS, examples of student work, assessments, and any other materials appropriate for the course or situation. After 3-4 weeks of evidence collection, classroom observation data should have been entered and teachers should have received feedback.

For hybrid learning environments, classroom observations should have occurred in both the in-person setting as well as the remote setting, and school leaders should have made notes in the classroom observation report about the environment of the observation.

For simultaneous teaching – an environment in which teaching occurred for some students in-person and others virtually (camera set up in classroom) – the evaluator should have focused on the group with which the teacher was actively working during the observation. In the comments section of the classroom observation report, evaluators could note the details of the situation and how the teacher engaged with the other group of students without affecting scoring decisions for that observation.

More details about NEE’s recommendations for classroom observations for 2020-2021 are available in our guide for evaluating remote teaching.

Student Surveys

Typically, schools that use the NEE Student Survey will survey students once or twice a year (usually November and February, or only in February). The NEE Student Survey allows scores from evaluator-collected data to be triangulated with student perceptions of teaching effectiveness. Students respond to survey items that align with the same 3 to 5 priority indicators measured in classroom observations. If students are surveyed more than once over the course of the summative cycle, the scores that are fed to the summative report represent an average of the survey results.

For the 2020-2021 school year, NEE encouraged schools to consider surveying students more often – perhaps twice per semester or even more frequently – to generate additional opportunities to check in with both students and teachers. In remote settings, schools may also have added indicators to the student survey to measure teaching behaviors particularly important for remote learning. (More details on the particularly important indicators are available in our guide for evaluating remote teaching.)

Teacher Professional Development Plans

The teacher professional development plan guides a teacher’s professional growth over the course of the school year. Some states, including Missouri, require a TPDP for teachers. In NEE, the TPDP can be a scored element of a teacher’s summative evaluation.

A TPDP can be scored at any point during the school year. However, most school leaders score teachers’ plans either right before the summative report is completed or at the end of the school year. If the district prefers that the scores for the TPDP be reported on the summative report for the same school year, the TPDP must be scored before the summative report is completed. If the TPDP is scored at the end of the school year, the score will be reported on the teacher’s next summative report.

Unit of Instruction Plans

The NEE Unit of Instruction provides evidence of a teacher’s ability to turn written curriculum into taught curriculum. The UOI Organizer is not intended to be a full unit plan template. It is a document that organizes the elements of an instructional unit into a format that an evaluator can score. The teacher may use any unit from the school year to complete the organizer, which is generally submitted and scored by the end of January.

For 2020-2021, NEE recommended that both the TPDP and the UOI plans, along with any specialist evaluation organizers, could continue as normal.

But… What If I Didn’t Evaluate Much or At All?

Let’s face it: It was a challenging year filled with relentless uncertainty and simply trying your best to keep everyone safe. 

If you’re behind – even way behind – on your teacher evaluation data, here’s what we recommend: If you’re planning to conduct summative evaluations this spring, you need to enter data. Do what you can now. Get into classrooms – whether in-person or remotely – and provide formal feedback to teachers. Consider deploying student surveys to gather additional data. Notify teachers of your plans, and involve them in your decision-making when possible.

If you haven’t entered formal data but you have been visiting informally with teachers throughout the year, make note of those conversations in the general comments section of the teacher’s summative report. What were areas where the teacher needed support from you? How did they adapt? Where did they excel? What do they want to work on going forward?

If you want to talk through specific ideas, please reach out to us. You can call 844-793-4357 or email We are happy to help.

How Should School Leaders Interpret Data for the Summative?

As you prepare for summative reports, an important question to consider is: How will you interpret the evaluation data from this year?

As we said in NEE’s resources and recommendations for evaluating remote teaching, the evaluation process this school year should be guided by growth and adaptability more than ever. It is important to show support for teachers, celebrate successes, and think through plans for continued professional growth and development next year and beyond.

Use the summative report to document the teacher’s journey over the past year. What is the difference between their teaching at the beginning of the pandemic and their teaching now? What were the strengths that emerged, and what do they want to work on going forward?

Show support for the teacher’s adaptations and improvements. Avoid making high-stakes decisions. Remember this was a highly atypical year, and all educators had to rapidly adapt to a new teaching environment that, for most, was uncharted territory. Celebrate wins, make a plan for continued development, and keep moving forward.

In the coming weeks, we will share technical guidance for completing summative reports in the NEE Data Tool and our recommendations for holding summative conferences with teachers this spring. You can follow along on the NEE Advantage blog, under the category Summative Evaluation.

The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.