Opportunity for the best teachers

Opportunity at the Top, a new Public Impact report, offers to show “how America’s best teachers could close the gaps, raise the bar and keep our nation great.” Co-author Bryan Hassel says:

Today, great teachers reach a mere fraction of the children whom they could help, are paid a fraction of their worth, and exit teaching in numbers too large.

. . . Our nation’s best teachers should be outraged at how we have denied them the pay and career opportunities that talented professionals in other jobs enjoy.

Public education attracts some top-notch talent — but then does a poor job of keeping the best teachers and leveraging their abilities to benefit more students, concludes the report, which is funded by the Joyce Foundation. It calls for an “opportunity culture” for America’s teachers:

Adopt policies designed to disproportionately retain high-performers;
Extend the reach — and compensation — of the best teachers;
Recruit more great teachers;
Dismiss low-performing teachers who do not get results for students.

Public Impact has also released 3X for All: Extending the Reach of Education’s Best, which is funded by the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.

Prioritize effectiveness, not seniority, when deciding on teacher layoffs, says a new Education Trust West policy brief.

In the lowest performing 10 percent of schools in California, the average teacher has more than 11 years of experience, Ed Trust West found. “Our highest need schools and students need effective teachers, regardless of how many years those teachers have been in the classroom,” says Arun Ramanathan, executive director of the nonprofit.

At a conference at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, Munich University economist Ludger Woessmann presented a paper on pay for teachers in 28 industrialized countries: Countries with merit-pay policies perform 0.25 standard deviations higher on an international math and science test than students in countries without such policies.  That represents a full year of learning, writes Paul Peterson.

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  1. Homeschooling Granny says:

    And we can tell exactly who the great teachers are by …? Refresh my memory; just how do we recognize the top-notch talent?

    Before we punish all the not-up-snuff teachers and schools, could we first point them to the exemplars of excellence that they should emulate?

    How many math teachers emulate Jaime Escalante? Why not more?

  2. Joanne,
    I just discovered your blog. I *just* addressed the following comment to Diane Ravitch a few days ago: “I’m curious about the pay structure of the countries that have better teachers and students in our engineering classes.”. To put the comment in context, DR was asked at a public forum if the reason other countries score higher than the US on international tests is because they track, and only their highest performers take the test. DR’s answer (well, my interpretation of her answer) was no, those countries do a better job of educating all of their students; she said the two factors that play into that are a more homogeneous population, and better teachers. I know that it’s more than just tracking (at least in math/science) because I have seen the makeup of graduate level engineering classes here in the US – the majority of engineering students are from those other countries, while US students are filling remedial math classes.

    Sorry for getting sidetracked, just wanted to put the comment in context. In any case, this quote in your post is the first answer I’ve seen my query: “Countries with merit-pay policies perform 0.25 standard deviations higher on an international math and science test than students in countries without such policies. That represents a full year of learning”.

    DR also said she is against merit pay in part because teachers will do their best regardless of the pay. I agree that teachers will do their best, but I don’t see that as being the point of merit pay. First, what their best is varies from one teacher to the next. I have to admit it boggles me that while everyone seems to agree that one size does not fit all kids, so many people seem to think one size fits all teachers. Second, to my mind, the point of merit pay is to entice more of the best teachers to the field of teaching. I know there are many truly great teachers lurking in fields that have better pay – merit pay. I work with some of them.

    A little over a year ago, I plotted my own salary history against several teacher salary schedules that I was able to download online. My salary history is not atypical in any way, and I made several adjustments to give the teacher salaries the ‘benefit of any possible doubt’. The difference is profound. I put the link in the ‘website’ field of this comment.

    The punchline is this: I am at a scaled salary point (scaled to account for summers off) half way through my engineering career that DOES NOT EXIST on most teacher salary scales, and my real salary is quite a bit more than that. My salary does not have a scale to top out on. I can continue to get raises, merit as well as cost-of-living, for what I do – I do not have to change jobs to make more money. Well, I don’t have to change engineering jobs to make more money. I did have to leave teaching to double my salary. I should update my graph, I got another merit raise this year.

  3. SuperSub says:

    Well, the two best ways to identify great teachers are those that are so unpalatable to many in education – scores on well-designed assessments and popularity amongst effective administrators.

    The skepticism amongst educators for those two metrics is well-founded, though, as the current education world is awash in poorly-designed assessments and ineffective administrators.
    Escalante is a great example of how these two factors can affect the perception of teachers. Without the right administrator and assessment (AP exams), he was largely viewed as a troublemaker that refused to teach students assigned to his classes. Once a new principal took over and he was actually able to have his students take the AP Calc exam, his qualities became known. Also note that it was largely the teacher’s union that drove him from the school for making the individual choice to put efforts in beyond those allowed in the teachers’ contract.

    So, back to Granny’s point… until effective reform is accomplished amongst administrators and teaching academia (who largely influence state curriculum and test design), there will be no effective way to identify master teachers.


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