A Classroom Observer Like Me: The Effect of Demographic Congruence Between Teachers and Raters on Observation Scores
Author: Olivia Chi
To further understand the challenges of diversifying the teacher pipeline, Olivia Chi examines how race and gender dynamics influence administrators’ subjective assessments of teachers in the context of classroom observations. Specifically, Chi asks whether teachers receive higher classroom observation scores as a result of sharing race or gender with their observers, who are typically school-based administrators. On a broad scale, if teachers benefit from being evaluated by observers who share their demographic background, this could place non-White and male teachers at a disadvantage, since both groups are underrepresented in the education sector in the United States.
Teachers, on average, experience small positive increases in their scores from sharing race or gender with their classroom observers. The magnitudes of these increases are roughly equivalent to 8%-10% of the average gain in observation scores demonstrated by novice teachers after an additional year of teaching. Chi also explores whether these benefits can be explained by shared experiences between observers and teachers, such as similar prior teaching assignments, attendance at the same university, or a history of working together at the same school. No evidence found that the race- or gender-match effects are explained by these commonalities.
Implications and Recommendations
The presence of similar race and gender dynamics may disadvantage underrepresented teachers and applicants, who are less likely to be assessed by demographically similar administrators. The dynamics that operate in the context of classroom observations may also play a role in other stages of the teacher pipeline where administrators rely on subjective assessments of teachers to make human resources decisions. Further research could examine how administrator and teacher demographics impact the assessments of teachers during the processes of hiring applicants, renewing contracts, and making recommendations for promotions to leadership positions.