Some teachers are a lot better than others, but there’s no way to tell until they start teaching, concludes a Hamilton Project report. So why not dump certification and judge new teachers on classroom effectiveness?
We propose federal support to help states measure the effectiveness of individual teachers â€” based on their impact on student achievement, subjective evaluations by principals and peers, and parental evaluations.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof teacher quality. Kristof advocates the Hamilton Project’s plan for improving American schools:
â€¢ End requirements for teacher certification.
â€¢ Make tenure more difficult to get so weak teachers can be weeded out after two or three years on the job.
â€¢ Award $15,000 annual bonuses to good teachers for as long as they teach at schools in low-income areas.
Certification requirements discourage smart people from entering teaching in midcareer but don’t keep out the untalented, Kristof argues.
A Los Angeles study found students with teachers in the top quartile of effectiveness scored 10 percentile points higher than students with teachers in the bottom quartile. That’s a huge difference, especially for students in high-poverty schools that tend to employ the least effective teachers.
The Hamilton Project study recommends that the weakest 25 percent of new teachers should be denied tenure and eliminated after two or three years on the job (teachers improve a lot in the first two years, but not much after that). That approach, it estimates, would raise studentsâ€™ average test scores by 14 percentile points by the time they graduated.
On Quick and the Ed, Kevin Carey calls the Hamilton proposals a “seismic change” possibly involving the earth rotating backwards on its axis.
It would mean taking seriously a fact that most educators know intuitively yet is largely absent from teacher policy: teaching is an extraordinarily complicated endeavor, and people find different ways to be good at it. You can train and test prospective teachers, give them knowledge and skill, and those things are important, but once they get into the classroom some teachers bring additional talents, work ethic, intelligence, drive, etc. to bear, and others don’t. Those differences matter a lot to student learning.
Students who get the ineffective teachers who haven’t yet been weeded out would be out of luck. But would these teachers have been weeded out in teacher education programs? Probably not.
On Education Sector, Carey notes that states are skirting the federal law that requires them to identify underperforming teacher education programs. Thirty-one states haven’t found a single teacher prep lemon.
Louisiana is an exception:
In addition to having a legitimate pass-rate standard, Louisiana has recently embarked on a groundbreaking effort to assess programs using information about how well program graduates perform in the classroom. By using “value-added” measures of year-to-year growth in student scores on standardized tests, Louisiana soon will be basing program accountability on the success of program graduates in helping their students meet state achievement standards.
A preliminary study found half of teacher preparation programs are graduating new teachers who are comparable in effectiveness to experienced teachers.
Teachers, what do you think of the Hamilton Project ideas? Could it be done well — or, at least, better than the current system?
Update: Eduwonk is gagaless over the Kristof column because he thinks the real problem is the need for competent administrators who can tell a good teacher from a lemon. Value-added data crunching isn’t enough, he writes.