Teaching Policy to Improve Student Learning: Lessons from Abroad, by Lynn Olson, Education Week (2006). http://www.aspeninstitute.org/atf/cf/%7BDEB6F227-659B-4EC8-8F84-8DF23CA704F5%7D/Ed_Lessons_from_Abroad.pdf
Human Capital Framework for K-12 Urban Education: Organizing for Success, The Aspen Institute, Program on Education and Society, January, 2008. http://www.aspeninstitute.org/site/c.huLWJeMRKpH/b.3416305/k.B7A2/Elements_of_a_Human_Capital_Framework_for_Education.htm
Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job, Robert Gordon, Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger, The Hamilton Project (2006) http://www.brookings.edu/views/papers/200604hamilton_1.htm
Performance Pay for Teachers: Designing a System Students Deserve, a Teacher Solutions Report, http://www.teacherleaders.org/teachersolutions/TSreport.pdf
Sommers, Rhoda C. “Real” Middle School Teachers, The Qualitative Report Volume 8 Number 4 December 2003 530-538 http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR8-4/sommers.pdf
Schools to Watch, Freeport Intermediate School. http://www.schoolstowatch.org/freeport/
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS:
Most of us use subjective criteria to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Based on our own experience, we know an effective teacher when we experience one, either in our own learning or that of our children. Effective teachers motivate their students to learn, foster students’ self-esteem and their students’ belief in their own ability to master a subject or skill. Effective teachers model their own passion for learning and curiosity about their subject matter. Effective teachers set clear expectations for their students and challenge them to achieve not just the minimum, but their best. Increasingly, teachers must model life-long learning for their students to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world.
Most of the studies, I reviewed noted the difficulty both in identifying effective teachers using objective criteria, and the dangers in relying solely on performance data that can be easily manipulated. Moreover, teachers work in schools, and the conditions in which they work affect the quality of their teaching. As one school board director noted, “Put a good teacher in a bad system, and the system wins every time.” Our challenge is “not only to nurture good teachers but also to develop good schools in which teachers can be effective.” (Olson, Lessons from Abroad)
It is interesting to note that identifying effective teachers has become increasingly tied to efforts to quantify student achievement and provide a differentiated pay scale for teachers rather than relying on a single-salary schedule. AISD’s own strategic compensation plan is tied to TAKS improvement in reading and math and is targeted primarily to “high needs” schools. The difficulty lies in tracking performance of individual students over time and linking those students to their teachers, and accurately accounting for differences in varied student populations. Most of the studies I reviewed noted the need to “develop and implement longitudinal data systems” to provide objective information linking teacher performance to student achievement.
Some of the ill-fated efforts in places such as Florida and Houston can be attributed to narrowly focusing on short-term improvements in scores, and failing to support collaborative efforts to increase students and teachers improved performance -- instead establishing competitive measures based on rankings. Rather than encouraging the sharing of best practices among teachers and schools, this would seem to foster rivalries and manipulative practices that would in the end defeat the goal of raising the achievement of all students.
The studies I found most compelling placed a strong emphasis on teacher-developed criteria for setting performance standards and professional development goals, guided by the priorities and needs of the local districts in which they worked. We must reward experienced, effective teachers who mentor novice and developing teachers. “Performance-pay plans should encourage more teachers to document effective classroom practices and share them with their colleagues.” (Performance Pay for Teachers, p. 4)
Other ideas worth noting:
Establishing base pay systems with tiers of “novice, professional, and expert.”
Supplementing base-pay with performance-pay open to all teachers.
Demonstrated ability to improve student performance should be rewarded with leadership opportunities, such as mentoring novices and peers, sharing effective teaching strategies, and serving on advisory committees. Excellent teachers should not have to become administrators in order to achieve adequate compensation.
Offer incentives to teachers who work in high-need schools but only if they are adequately prepared to address the school’s specific learning needs.
Include accomplished teachers in establishing performance standards and developing compensation plans.
Encourage all teachers to open up their classrooms to formative evaluations by peers, expert teachers, and administrators. Teachers need feedback in order to improve their teaching skills.