Neag School of Education’s Professor to Examine Teacher Evaluation in New Haven

Morgaen for NAed story webMorgaen Donaldson, an assistant professor of educational leadership at UConn’s Neag School of Education, has been awarded a Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Academy of Education (NAEd) to study how incorporating student academic achievement in teachers’ performance evaluations affects teachers’ motivation and work behaviors.

Donaldson will focus her research and data gathering on New Haven’s large and diverse public school system, which according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and others has as developed a “model” teacher evaluation system.

The study will be one of the first of its kind in the nation.

“Because of federal policies like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waiver requirements that target teacher performance as a primary lever for improving schools, more than 40 states have changed their laws in recent years to incorporate student achievement in teacher evaluations. Yet little published research examines the effects of doing this,” Donaldson explained. “My study will provide early findings about how those at the center of this reform – teachers – are responding to such changes, and how linking student achievement and teacher evaluation is influencing teachers’ attitudes, behaviors and effectiveness.”

Donaldson was one of just 20 educational fellows selected from a competitive pool of more than 200 applications, said NAEd Senior Program Officer Phillip Perin.

Now in its 27th year, the NAEd fellowship program is designed to support early-career scholars whose research has the potential to make “significant” contributions to the fields of education and educational research.

“We believe the fellowships enhance the future of education research by developing new talent in the many disciplines and fields”, said Perin added.

A research associate at the Neag School’s Center for Policy Analysis, Donaldson has also studied the implementation of Connecticut’s new educator evaluation system, the effects of school organization and leadership on science achievement, and the trade-offs associated with different teacher evaluation instruments, among other areas. Her findings have been published in American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Administration Quarterly, Teachers College Record, Educational Leadership, and other scholarly and practitioner journals.

A former urban public school teacher, Donaldson was a founding faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy, Boston’s public high school for the arts. She holds an Ed.D. and Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an A.B. from Princeton University.