RESPECT for teachers (and their unions)

RESPECT, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching is the administration’s new competitive grant idea for education. The $5 billion would reward states and districts that work with teachers and their unions, education schools and others to remake teaching. Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave no specifics, but Ed Week’s Politics K-12 suggests some possibilities:

. . . overhaul teachers’ colleges to make them more selective, create career ladders for teachers, give extra money to teachers who work in tough environments, bolster professional development, revamp tenure, craft evaluation systems, and make teachers’ salaries more competitive with other professions.

Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, is all for it.

A new $5 billion spending program has little chance of being approved, notes Politics K-12. The money is part of the $60 billion American Jobs Act proposal, “which is going absolutely nowhere in Congress.”

It’s an election year, and President Obama—and other Democrats—are expected to face a tough campaign season. They’ll almost certainly need help from the teachers’ unions blockbuster get-out-the-vote apparatus. Proposing a bunch of new money to improve the teaching profession might go a long way to assuaging educators—and their unions—who are less than thrilled with the administration’s focus on using student test scores to at least partially inform teacher evaluations.

Turn out the vote now, but will he respect you in the morning?

Teachers matter — now what?

Teachers Matter. Now What?, writes Dana Goldstein in The Nation, citing the Chetty study on the long-term effects of high value-added teachers.

Given the widespread, non-ideological worries about the reliability of standardized test scores when they are used in high-stakes ways, it makes good sense for reform-minded teachers’ unions to embrace value-added as one measure of teacher effectiveness, while simultaneously pushing for teachers’ rights to a fair-minded appeals process.

What’s more, just because we know that teachers with high value-added ratings are better for children, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we should pay such teachers more for good evaluation scores alone. Why not use value-added to help identify the most effective teachers, but then require these professionals to mentor their peers in order to earn higher pay?

That’s the sort of teacher “career ladder” that has been so successful in high-performing nations like South Korea and Finland, and that would guarantee that excellent teachers aren’t just reaching twenty-five students per year but are truly sharing their expertise in a way that transforms entire schools and districts.

Reformers have been advocating teacher career ladders for a long time. Why aren’t they used more widely?