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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Is there a good-teacher gap? Maybe not

Measuring teacher quality is tricky, and that makes it hard to tell if there's a good-teacher gap, writes Fordham's Michael Petrilli in his series on "real equity" in education.

Certification status and years of experience, are "weak proxies for effectiveness," he writes. "One study estimated that 97 percent of what makes a teacher great is not measured by those sorts of inputs."

Some teachers are effective in some schools but less effective in others, research goes. For example, "all else being equal, Black teachers are more effective with Black students than their White counterparts are."

High-poverty schools, which tend to be harder places to teach, often have less-experienced teachers. New teachers transfer to easier schools when they gain seniority -- or burn out and quit. So it's assumed these schools have less effective teachers.

But that may not be true, writes Petrilli. "At least one reputable study found that the teacher effectiveness gap essentially does not exist, at least if we’re defining effectiveness as the ability to consistently boost student achievement."

It's possible to evaluate teachers’ impact on students’ growth in reading and math scores in grades three through eight, because those subjects and grades are tested, he writes. But lots of teachers teach other grades and subjects. "So we don’t have an easy way to tell, for example, whether high-poverty schools have systematically lower quality social studies or art or music or PE teachers than more-affluent schools do."

To "make sure that poor kids and kids of color get their fair share of the best instructors," Petrilli suggests emulating the District of Columbia's sophisticated teacher evaluation system, IMPACT. "It’s not perfect, but IMPACT is miles ahead of anyone else’s evaluation system, and had a clear, positive effect on teacher effectiveness and diversity and student outcomes."

That's hard to do politically, Petrilli concedes. The next best thing is to pay teachers a lot more to teach in the toughest schools as Houston is doing.

Houston's new superintendent, Mike Miles, wants a pay-for-performance model that links teacher salaries to test scores and performance evaluations, reports Dominic Anthony Walsh for Houston Public Media. He also wants to make it harder for teachers to be rated "proficient."

The teachers' union is fighting him, and the "new evaluation system is on hold for now.

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3 comentarios

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
29 mar

I tried to get Michelle Rhee to look at Singapore's teacher appraisal system around ten years ago, when Secretary Duncan was pushing this exact same initiative (with much funding from the Gates Foundation), but, like so many Americans, she was apparently unwilling to research innovations from outside the shores of the USA (even ones ahead of her IMPACT), a shortcoming the leaders of virtually no education system outside the United States suffer from.

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28 mar

I've commented here before that the evaluation system is one thing making teaching more of a PITA. The more time I have to spend filling out evaluation plans and paperwork, the less time (and energy) I have to be a good teacher.

Haven't, however, read the article about IMPACT yet. Pdfs are too hard to read on a phone.

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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
27 mar

"It’s not perfect, but IMPACT is miles ahead of anyone else’s evaluation system, and had a clear, positive effect on teacher effectiveness and diversity and student outcomes."

The word "diversity" now gets thrown into the middle of sentences for no meaningful reason. Author gets docked a point for not using "systemic," however.

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