Rebalancing Teacher Tenure

TNTP imageNearly everyone agrees that all students deserve a quality education, and that teachers deserve reasonable job protections. But Vergara v. California threw a spotlight on a hard truth: The balance has swung too far toward job protections for adults, at the expense of the rights of children.

Tenure doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. TNTP believes school systems can strike a more reasonable balance between job protections for teachers and the educational rights of students with  common-sense changes to existing tenure laws and regulations.

Recently, TNTP released a short paper with eight recommendations for what those changes should look like, including:

— Lengthening the tryout period and linking tenure to performance

— Streamlining hearings and focusing on students’ interests

— Ending tolerance for egregious misconduct, but lowering the professional stakes for teachers in other cases

These aren’t radical changes, and they’re not about stripping teachers of due process. Fixing tenure is no silver bullet, but it is a step toward putting the focus back where it should be: on supporting and keeping the vast majority of our teachers whose performance is not an issue.

For more information on this timely issue, please visit:



Next Generation Accountability Concepts

The Center for American Progress and the Council of Chief State School Officers are out with a new report looking at next-generation accountability concepts that states have implemented in lieu of zero congressional action on No Child Left Behind.

Generally, the accountability reforms fall into 5 categories across the states:

  • Measuring progress toward college and career readiness
    Many states are rethinking mechanisms for measuring progress based on assessments and are including additional measures of college and career readiness such as the percentage of high school graduates who require remediation coursework in college.
  • Diagnosing and responding to challenges via school-based quality improvement
    Many states and districts are using a broad array of quality indicators, such as parent volunteer hours and attendance data, to measure school success and develop school-improvement plans, as well as making use of third-party experts to assist them in this work.
  • State systems of support and intervention
    States and districts are rethinking the way they support struggling schools. Some of the most prevalent strategies include school support teams, pairing high-growth schools with low-performing schools, networks of low-performing schools, engaging external providers, and recovery school districts.
  • Resource accountability
    Some states and districts are focusing more intently on the connections between resource allocation and outcomes, and several have tried to aggressively tackle inequitable school funding with new state funding formulas. Others are working to increase transparency and accountability for how funds are being spent to ensure that high-need students are receiving adequate support.
  • Professional accountability
    Most states have adopted new systems for evaluating and supporting teachers and leaders. However, some states are leveraging these new evaluation systems to create more robust on-site embedded professional development systems and developing school leaders, such as principals, to effectively carry out teacher-evaluation systems and instructional leadership. In addition, a number of states are also rethinking other aspects of the teaching profession, including teacher licensure, teacher-preparation program approval and accreditation, and selection, retention, and tenure.

Find that full report here: .

ScopeA related report released by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky calls for new accountability systems with stronger, more multi-dimensional ways of evaluating schools, among other measures.

This report, penned by Education Policy veteran Linda Darling-Hammond, argues that this new system should rest on three pillars — “a focus on meaningful learning, adequate resources, and professional capacity — and should be driven by processes for continuous evaluation and improvement.”

“For more than a decade, the definition of ‘accountability’ in education has manifested largely in the form of consequences to schools that do not meet annual targets for growth on yearly state tests. This definition has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum and a widening of the opportunity  gap,” said Linda Darling-Hammond. “A powerful accountability system must offer a rich and well-taught curriculum to all students, raising expectations not only for individual schools but for the functioning of the system as a whole.”

You can find that report here: .


Better Student Surveys Crucial for Better Teaching

wpid-panorama_ed3-620x387For years now, standardized testing and teacher observation have been seen as the two key pillars to gauge student learning and teacher proficiency. A new survey company, Panorama Education, hopes that its improved and much cheaper survey techniques can ensure that a third pillar is added: student voice.

A New York Times article by Farhad Manjoo profiled the efforts of this surveying startup and found promising results. Following is an excerpt from the article:

Mr. Feuer, the co-founder of Panorama, became fascinated by student surveys when he was attending an urban high school in Los Angeles in which about half of incoming freshmen did not graduate. Mr. Feuer is a computer enthusiast with an appetite for data, so he naturally searched for numbers to explain his school’s low performance, but found few hard statistics. He became active in student government, eventually becoming president of the California Association of Student Councils. In that role, he persuaded California’s Legislature to pass a law that would encourage schools to solicit student feedback.

But after Mr. Feuer graduated from high school and began attending Yale, he realized that the law he’d helped push had gone nowhere. As useful as they were, student feedback surveys were too expensive and cumbersome for widespread adoption.

Instead, you need close monitoring and a large constellation of data to effectively assess their performance. In 2012, the pair decided to start a tech company devoted to making surveys more widely available for schools. The business proved immediately successful, with dozens of schools signing up to test the program.

It is too soon to tell how widely schools will adopt surveys like Panorama’s, and how deeply surveys might become integrated into the education-reform movement’s effort to find a better way to measure teachers. But some teachers and administrators, including those at Aspire Lionel Wilson in Oakland, say the surveys have been instrumental in how they approach the classroom.

With technology today, more and more schools can afford the technology to hear more from their students, but the question remains whether they will have the support and/or know-how to use those data in meaningful ways.

For more information, please click on the following links:


Real Progress in Maryland: SLOs and Teacher and Principal Evaluation

slo_assessmentThe Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is making significant strides in guiding and supporting the implementation of Student Learning Objectives as part of a teacher and principal evaluation (TPE) system statewide. A new report from CTAC and WestEd prepared through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC at WestEd), examines frontline educators’ overall perceptions of TPE and key issues in implementation, including quality, consistency, and school, district and state support.

The more experience  educators have with the new evaluation system, the higher their skill and comfort levels are with its implementation, and the more their efforts focus on strengthening instruction. The report, Real Progress in Maryland, also includes recommendations which focus on ways to strengthen implementation within and across districts in Maryland, while reinforcing the instructional emphasis of TPE. Lessons learned will be instructive to all states striving to implement SLOs as part of teacher and principal evaluation.

For the report, please visit:

For more about Core Education’s coverage of SLOs, please visit:



School Climate Change

allianceforexcellenteducationAccording to a new Alliance for Excellent Education report, supporting great teaching is key to a positive school climate and academic success for at-risk students.

With schools implementing higher academic standards that require engaging and effective teaching, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education in partnership with the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign finds that far too many low-income students and students of color do not have access to great teaching that supports a positive school environment. The report, Climate Change: Improving School Climate by Supporting Great Teaching, asserts that teachers do not always have the preparation and support needed to develop necessary skills.

“Students in the most challenged schools benefit most from teachers who possess the ‘know how’ to create positive learning environments,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Unfortunately, many teachers in these schools lack the training and support necessary to create learning environments that are as dynamic inside the classroom as they are in the community and workforce outside the classroom.”

As today’s classrooms continue evolving to prepare students to meet the demands they will face upon high school graduation, the knowledge and skills a teacher possesses become increasingly important. The report offers recommendations for supporting teachers in creating a positive school climate for all students and represents the final installment in the Alliance’s series of papers on how equitable and effective school discipline policies, equitable access to rigorous and engaging course work, and access to effective teaching work together to create a positive school climate.

For more information, please visit:


Tuning the Rigor of College Programs

Lumina_horiz_rgbRecently, the Lumina Foundation released its “Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP).”

The DQP is a learning-centered framework for what college graduates should know and be able to do to earn the associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. The DQP seeks to define quality learning and better signify the value that postsecondary credentials represent, and after nearly four years of testing at 400 colleges and universities nationwide, it’s ready for widespread adoption by all types of institutions.

The DQP allows students to have a tangible understanding of the learning they need to master along their educational path, and it gives employers a better method to assess job candidates and their repertoire of skills. For institutions, the DQP and the complementary, discipline-focused process of Tuning allows them to better define what degrees mean and, in tandem, better communicate the value of postsecondary learning. With so much critique of the rigor of college- and university-based teacher preparation programs, the DQP is a tool that institutions can use to ensure that their programs meet expectations.

For more information, please visit:


ED: Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Equal Access to Educational Resources

edAll students-regardless of race, color, national origin or zip code-deserve a high-quality education that includes resources such as academic and extracurricular programs, strong teaching, technology and instructional materials, and safe school facilities.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced guidance, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter to states, school districts and schools to ensure that students have equal access to such educational resources so that they all have an equal opportunity to succeed in school, careers and in life. The guidance, issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides detailed and concrete information to educators on the standards set in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is one part of President Obama’s larger equity agenda, including the recently announced Excellent Educators for All initiative, and takes into account the ongoing efforts of states, school districts and schools to improve equity.

“Education is the great equalizer-it should be used to level the playing field, not to grow inequality,” said Secretary Duncan, who announced the guidance at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. “That means that all students regardless of their race, zip code or family income should have equal access to educational resources-whether it’s effective teaching, challenging coursework, facilities with modern technology or a safe school environment. Many states and districts have demonstrated leadership in taking steps to tackle these difficult problems. Unfortunately, in too many communities, especially those that are persistently underserved, serious gaps remain. This guidance aims to fix that by providing school leaders with information to identify and target inequities in the distribution of school resources.”

The guidance is intended to provide superintendents and other school district officials with information regarding the requirements on educational resources, how OCR investigates resource disparities and what states, school districts and schools can do to meet their obligations to all students. Under Title VI, states, school districts and schools must not intentionally treat students differently based on race, color or national origin in providing educational resources. In addition, they must not implement policies or practices for providing educational resources that disproportionately affect students of a particular race, color or national origin, absent a substantial justification. The law does not require that all students receive the exact same resources to have an equal chance to learn and achieve. It does, however, require that all students have equal access to comparable resources in light of their educational needs.

For more information, please visit:


October Issue Brief: Access to Effective Teachers

In Case You Missed It!The U.S. Education Department has recently rolled out another phase in its quest to ensure that lower income students have similarly excellent teachers as their higher income peers. What is the research behind the push for equitable distribution of teacher effectiveness? What are the issues and complexities of this work?

In this month’s issue brief, we explore research, resources, and ideas related to shifts in policy and practice; incentives for teacher transfer; and effectiveness of redistribution of talent to build understanding and provoke discussion related to this concept.

What do you believe are the most productive methods for ensuring excellent educators for all students? Should teacher placement decisions be made at the school or district levels? What incentives for teacher transfer have you found to be most effective? Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

To check out this month’s newsletter and access resources on access to effective teachers, please follow this link:

To ensure you do not miss future issues, we encourage you to subscribe to the monthly newsletter by following this link:


TNTP publishes the 2014 Fishman Prize winners’ essays and announces the 2015 Competition

TNTP PrizeAnnouncing Applications and Nominations for the TNTP’s 2015 $25,000 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. It’s the only national award exclusively for teachers in high-poverty public schools.

TNTP is looking for the next set of winners. Last year, TNTP received thousands of nominations and over 820 applications from teachers nationwide.

Start an application or tell a great teacher how much they matter with a nomination. The winners aren’t the only ones who benefit. Nominators get a chance to recognize teachers who deserve more attention. Applicants get a chance to reflect on their teaching. And finalists receive $1,000 each.

The early application deadline is Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

To apply or nominate someone go to:

TNTP has also published the 2014 Fishman Prize winners’ essays, “Languages for Learning.”

In the essays, you’ll hear how “deep discipline” helps students who have never touched an instrument become championship band members. You’ll see what “getting to know your students” really means in an AP Calculus classroom. You’ll hear why learning physics starts with talking like a 10-year-old. And you’ll learn what Hiroshima has to do with teaching fourth grade English language learners in Oakland.

If you are a junkie for great teaching, drop whatever you are doing and read the essays now.  No, really. They are that good.

For more information, please visit:


America Achieves Launches Global Learning Network

america achievesRecently, over 300 dedicated school and district leaders, from across the United States and Spain came together in Washington, D.C. for the Convening of World-Leading Schools. Each attendee represented a school or schools that exhibited impressive leadership by taking the PISA-based OECD Test for Schools to better understand how well they are preparing their students for success in our changing world. These leaders have joined the growing number of schools globally that are leveraging this powerful tool for learning. The convening marked the official launch of America Achieves Global Learning Network (GLN). The GLN is a professional learning community for assessment participants.

The members of the Global Learning Network are well-respected school and district leaders, many of whom represent world-leading schools here in the U.S. As members, they have the opportunity to better understand their assessment results, share improvement strategies made in response to those results, learn from best practices at schools within the GLN and around the globe, and serve as spokespeople, illustrating how practice shifts made in response to results have contributed to improved student outcomes. This work has already been featured on the PBS NewsHour, in Education Week, and in the New York Times.

Attendees at the Convening of World-Leading Schools had the opportunity to learn from national and international experts, including Andreas Schleicher of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Participants discussed ways to improve outcomes based on assessment results in areas ranging from creating positive learning environments to strategies that initiate the right practice shifts in math, reading, and science. Participants also engaged with one another to share their experiences with the assessment and discuss specific actions that they are taking to improve student outcomes. America Achieves is grateful to all of the school and district leaders in attendance.

For more information, please visit: