Monday, September 8, 2008

Fixing Teacher Quality

Teaching quality continues to move forward in the news. Mike Petrilli has an excellent write up in the Gadfly from last week and now a new article in the Washington Post about what the newly canonized Michelle Rhee plans to do. But they are all trying to run before we learn to walk.
Management texts will tell you that you need to focus on improving staff. In teaching, the staggering numbers always tell the tale.

There are 3.2 million teachers. Jack Welch, the brilliant CEO of GE, made his managers rank all staff so that they knew the top 20%, middle 70% and the bottom 10%. The top 20% were fast tracked into leadership positions and the bottom 10% got fired.

We would have to fire 320,000 teachers per year. That would double the number of teachers we need to hire each year and since we can’t find enough to fill our positions now, we will never have enough if we start to really push an aggressive approach towards eliminating mediocre teaching.

The other problem with rating teachers is that our principals have not demonstrated that they are really all that great at rating teachers. Here I am siding with the teacher’s unions again - but we would really need some serious evaluation training for principals before we can start this type of approach.

To solve teacher quality we need to do the following:

  1. Fix recruitment – have enough candidates for each position so that the principal can hire the right teacher for his/her students – we need more routes to the classroom to increase the numbers
  2. Be Selective - less than 40% of our ABCTE candidates make it through the program and we are starting to see great results from our teachers
  3. Train principals in hiring – ensure they know how to match the teacher to the students
    Develop great performance evaluations for teachers – outcomes and observations based and ensure the evaluation is more than once a year
  4. Train principals on evaluations – ensure they know how to develop teachers
  5. Develop truly great professional development for teachers – develop efficacy measure for the professional development to ensure it meets minimum standards
  6. Train principals on how to assign prescriptive professional development from performance evaluations

Once that is in place, then you can start to move teachers who do not succeed with students out of the classroom. But we have a lot of work to do learning to walk before we can start running.

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