From the Education Equality Project – the strange bedfellows of Al Sharpton and Joel Klein – comes a position paper on improving teacher quality. Among it’s many virtues is that it is only seven pages, and it is well worth a complete read.
And unlike many papers that merely bemoan the state of the teaching profession, this paper offers seven policy suggestions. As a group, this is as intelligent and cohesive list as I’ve seen. All of it is possible.
Here are the policy suggestions, in slightly abbreviated form:
1. Cast a wider net for prospective teachers by lowering the entry barriers to the teaching profession. At the same time, teacher colleges, alternative certification programs, and districts should redouble efforts to develop more effective human capital strategies for recruiting and selecting promising teachers.
2. The federal government should require states and districts to develop longitudinal data systems that would allows school administrators and principals to use value-added data to measure and track the impact teachers have on student achievement.
3. States and districts should be encouraged and free to use a variety of outcome-based measures to evaluate teacher effectiveness, yet any system that states devise to evaluate teacher performance should include student test scores as a key measuring stick – and should not succumb to the temptation to substitute input-based measures to gauge teacher effectiveness (like licensure status and education credentials).
4. Every school and district should assess and document the impact that probationary teachers have on student learning from the moment they enter the classroom. Fledgling teachers should receive better professional development support, including on-the-job mentoring and supervision from peers and master teachers.
5. To transform tenure into a progress-based prerogative, states and districts should require tenure candidates to demonstrate that they are effectively boosting student learning – a process that should take a minimum of five years. At the same time, the least-effective probationary instructors should be denied tenure.
6. Teachers who demonstrate their effectiveness at raising student achievement should receive large bonuses for teaching in high-poverty schools and extra compensation for teaching core subjects in shortage areas, like math and science.
7. Tenured teachers should periodically be reassessed to ensure that they are still raising student achievement. Tenures instructors who are doing a good job should receive significant merit pay hikes. But persistently incompetent teachers should be dismissed – after getting a chance to improve their performance. In much the same spirit, unionized teachers should enjoy the due process protection and seniority rights afforded to other white-collar professionals – but not be shielded by excessive due-process requirements from meaningful job performance assessments or layoffs.