A recent report released by Public Impact proposes a strategy for getting an excellent teacher into every classroom, which would “close most of our stubborn achievement gaps in just five years.” An “excellent teacher” is described as one who produces well over today’s typical year of learning growth, and the authors emphasize that it is the duty of policymakers to ensure that every child has access to excellent teachers every year. Their recommendations are outlined below.
Improve the identification of excellent teachers.
Rather than focusing exclusively on creating new evaluation systems, a slow and arduous process, states need to accelerate identification of their excellent teachers now. This can be done through:
—Requiring districts to identify the top 25% of teachers using multiple measures, including student learning growth as the main element.
—Investing state funds to identify alternative measures of performance, such as behavioral competencies, that are highly correlated with student growth.
Clear the barriers that keep excellent teachers from reaching more students.
This is a multi-pronged strategy that looks at the organizational structure of states and districts:
—Policy: Many of the policies, including rigid budget categories, across-the-board class-size limits, “seat time” requirements, and licensing policies can create a situation that prevents the formation of the best mix of staff and technology in schools. Many of these policies, argue the authors, should be limited or eliminated altogether.
—Pay: Unsurprisingly, the authors urge the need to throw out the existing “steps and lanes” pay scales used in most states. Pay for performance (in the sense that excellent teachers should be paid more for reaching more students) is seen as necessary.
—Proactive retention: Policymakers are advised to grant absolute protection during layoffs to excellent teachers, advanced roles for teachers should be established to allow for advancement in the profession, and tenure should be transformed to “elite tenure, offered only to consistent top performers who can then be empowered to choose their peers.”
—Instructional and data systems: Broadband access for all communities, particularly low-income communities, is seen as imperative to removing barriers to an excellent education. Policymakers should enact policies that provide universal wireless access for all school-age children.
Create the will to give every child excellent teachers: Taking bold action.
The actions suggested here are bold indeed. Access to a free, public education is the right of all US residents, but the authors go a step further: making the access to excellent teachers a new civil right.
Furthermore, the authors suggest the following formula for determining a teacher’s success:
Teacher success = Effectiveness (how much students learn) x Reach (how many students receive instruction delivered by the teacher). “We need to know not just the number of excellent teachers a school has; the critical figure is the number of students they reach successfully,” the authors argue.
To read the full report, please visit http://opportunityculture.org/seizing-opportunity-at-the-top