Teacher to Teacher: Teacher Effectiveness and ESEA

Throughout the spring, the Department of Education’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows have been having conversations with teachers about a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Our job is to listen and contribute our collective teacher voices to policy at the Department.

In our first blog, we asked about assessments. We heard from many teachers that you appreciate the focus on measuring growth over time. We also heard the desire to have authentic assessments that get at multiple points of view on student’s work, knowledge and even emotional development and provide more useful information for instruction. The Department hopes that work coming out of the Race to the Top Assessment Competition will help get us more useful assessments like this.

This blog entry is inspired by joining in the celebrations honoring this year’s State Teachers of the Year from all fifty states and territories and the National Teacher of the Year in Washington, DC this week. We enjoyed hosting these representatives of great teachers across the country for a discussion of the blueprint for ESEA reauthorization.

One teacher raised concerns about the definition of an “effective teacher.” The blueprint would require that states create definitions of effectiveness developed in collaboration with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders. In Race to the Top, the Department says that student growth must be a significant factor, but that measurements of effectiveness must include other measures, such as multiple observation-based assessments on teacher performance or evidence of leadership roles that increase the effectiveness of other teachers.

What are your thoughts on defining teacher effectiveness? Should it be based in significant part on student growth? What other measures should be taken into account?

Teacher Ambassador Fellows

37 Comments

  1. “An effective teacher” is an interesting way to gauge performance. Truly though the hardest part I feel for teachers is in staying relevant to how children have their minds changed by the influence of more and more technology. As tasks that used to be essential are becoming more and more automated it is increasingly more of a challenge to actually stay on top of what is and is not “relevant” to where they are going to be in the future. I wish I had more answers but if we can work with some of the tech companies we just might figure out a way to help merge the business sector with the academic sector so that we can gauge the “effectiveness of a teacher” by the greatness of his or her students .

  2. I really respect the comments of all my colleagues here,but I have noticed in the last few years that education is not only a question of feeding kids information and teaching them facts. Even learning how to find and investigate a certain subject on the developing technical media is not the center of our needs today. At one time, to be a successful person you had to be knowledgeable in your profession. Today the world is a market and knowledge is not enough to become a successful person. You have to know how to take that knowledge to a new level and bring new value to the market.
    It is important to help children today to be self confident,creative, to teach them to set goals and achieve them.There are people that are very successful out there that did not get a “good education” and still have outstanding outcomes.Today “Success” has become a science and it can be taught. A successful minded person also becomes a “better person” – emotionally, spiritually,and mentally balanced.The outcome is that he is also economically balanced.I’m not saying that education as it is today, isn’t important.I am saying that school today doesn’t teach people to be successful. Today, this is a part of education that shouldn’t be avoided.It should be added to the curriculum.

  3. I am a highly motivated and passionate HS science teacher. The business model attached to education is a black eye and is a distortion. My skills and talents are being directed to data and numbers. The emphasis on numbers is cold and myopic. I want to inspire and teach. If I wanted to be an accountant, I would have chosen a different major in college.
    I have many awards, worked as a natualist around the world. This is what I have brought to the table. I am 57 and not dead, yet the change model is pushing teachers to re-evaluate our purpose as a teacher. We have to many hats and we need the triangle of student-parent-teacher to be connected. It is dysfunctional in our area. Teachers are measured and expected to get students to be viable and productive in our community. If we improve and open the other two essential components of the triangle to be equally on board. I am in Florida where only one in four finish college. The push from home is not there and often the motivation of the student is at a lower bar. I do not want to hear that I need to not lecture with powerpoints. I use technology, a variety of labs and yet the students appear to be done at 3:00 pm. If you have classes that are not honors this seems to be our reality. Who shoul change? Teacher or the student who gets to reap the benfit of a good education.
    I went to Private schools and my standards have always been high. Meaningful training in the field with active reserach sciences is needed. Exposure to current to work in labs with scientist is an essential component for educational growth in my field. Everything is about reading and methodology. Inclusion is driving ESE methods into our class. Some is very good. The distractive and non engaged students is the problem. The bar gets impacted by this distractions and behaviors. This gives you less not more.
    I have sound teaching methods with variety and technology. Consider paying us to work with scientist to improve our advanced scientific breakthroughs. Consider paying us for the challenging field we choice to communicate and teach. We can do the rest to make it relevant.

  4. I would definitely agree that the No Child Left Behind Act had some significant flaws. However, I believe teachers, administrators, and other school personnel put up defenses and started battling the act before they really tried to understand it. Instead of trying to work with the reform, they chose to fight against it. I have similar reservations about President Obama’s attempt at reform. We as educators need to find a way to work with what is good, and try to reform what is needing changed.

    That being said, I have some concerns with Obama’s plan. First and foremost is the issue of funding sources. The federal government currently drastically under-funds IDEA. My district still has to cut $500,000 (a relatively large amount for a district of our size). The state of Kansas just raised taxes in order to help offset some costs. It is still not enough. The reforms that Obama is asking for is going to cost a lot of money to operate effectively. Where will the money come from?

    I also have serious concerns about the levels of significance that is placed on meeting national standards and the consequences of not meeting them. I fear that the stress teachers will feel will cause teachers to move from high-need, low-income environments in order to have an “easier” job. I am a special education teacher. I worry that teachers will leave the field or younger teachers will avoid the field because they don’t want the stress that will come with it.

    I look forward to the new ideas Secretary Duncan and President Obama will present. I just hope that they thoroughly think into the future about the ramifications on the teaching profession.

  5. Some interesting comments. In fact, some necessary comments. Let’s take this perspective. I have been in the other side of the fence. In my case, the assessment field. When I walk into the higher education classroom (I am a graduate student), there is usually some frowning by teachers (attending graduate school) because I do assessments. Some can say that there are a lot of problems in the assessment field. I would agree. A lot of teachers say NCLB is a hindrance to the classroom. I see a lot of this attitude when teachers go to range finding. But during range finding they see a lot of things that are revealed in the student responses that they agree with and do not agree with. Perhaps, in this case, a necessary evil is realized. Things are either being taught effectively or not. Moreover, I also see real stress in trying to commit to unachievable goals. Many of these situations lead to the areas of cheating on both sides. According to Nichols & Berliner (2007), the use of standardized tests is an unreliable resource due to the corruption and the unmotivated nature of people who use testing as a means to educational accountability. Nichols & Berliner in their book “Collateral Damage” address the issues that are being addressed in this forum. In fact, the research is useful because it addresses the major flaws in the assessment system that we know today. Moreover, Nichols & Berliner elaborate that involving teachers in the creation of tests allow for empowerment and motivation. In addition, the authors recommend having professional conditions and standards in testing that offer stability in an unstable testing culture. As a person who has been doing in the assessment field, cheating is a norm on both sides of the fences. No matter, how much technology is improved that supposedly deters cheating, this is not actually true. For example, I see states forcing testing companies to change scores because the scores are not meeting the district norm or testing companies are so afraid of losing the scoring contract that they throw the approved test scores from previous year(s) that were acceptable into the test leaders’ laps. Follow this or else… Why…do you ask…and I am sure you know the answer…funding…My recommendations is having state officials (like PEDS or a representative visiting testing areas and sitting with scorers and seeing how readers/raters score. Having the PEDS/representatives become part of the testing in an aggressive manner will instill some sort of audit process rather than just showing up as a figure and walking around and not asking questions about what the “hell is going on.” Also, the content specialists should approve all true responses used to monitor scoring rather than just a few. Foremost, it prevents the test leaders in controlling the project and referring to past school district scores. In the school districts, teachers should not remain in the same classroom. Instead, having another teacher from another school district come in to monitor the classroom. So teachers should monitor other teachers from different school districts. In retrospect, authentic testing should be the future of testing. Authentic testing allows for a formative testing culture (teachers realize if the kids are learning…and asking questions about what is being learned) rather having a summative testing culture (cramming information without questioning).

  6. RE: DON,
    Perhaps we need an evaluation system for politicians and officials regarding their ability to listen, absorb, digest and appropriately react to the opinions of teachers, administrators, education experts, and parents. No kidding.

    RE: MIKE,
    Agreed. And our latest big idea to really address this is the original concept of the charter school meant to provide special resources and methods to high-needs students. However, that’s not what’s happening in general. Keeping the focus on teacher effectiveness and separating it from the other issues: school structure, missions, methods, curricula, assessment, community, parents, etc., is iatrogenic, to bring it back to medicine.

  7. In medicine, the mantra is that doctors heal you and nurses keep you alive. In education, the best aspect of the system is the teacher. Without a doubt, teachers make huge differences in kids’ lives, usually positive. The problems in education, which are really problems with our society, are not the fault of teachers. As a high school principal, I focus on continuous improvement. However, I cannot avoid the obvious: we a have a large numberof young people in our country who are not cared or provided for in a suitable fashion. These social and economic factors are huge obstacles to educating some kids. Lastly, test scores are not the measure people desire them to be. They do not indicate success or failure to the degree the ppublic assumes.

  8. I am impressed with the quality of this discussion. I doubt that considered discussion will have impact on the politicians. After spending decades in testing and evaluation, I came to the conclusion that family income and structure were and are the most important indicators of pupil achievement.

  9. I sub in Colorado. My district is laying off dozens of skilled teachers and plans to increase class sizes in an effort to save money. High school teachers are apprehensive about the district going to all-block (90 minute class periods)system–we presently have 7 periods M,T, and F; W and R are “block days”. As a sub, I think it’s great when teachers have respectful and disciplined students who pay attention and do their assignments. I have had kids throw their desks, books, curse and fight. I’d love to be able to teach science and math, not self-control. There are huge variations within these classrooms; some kids can barely read and others are gifted. I hope people recognize the tremendous amount of dedication it takes to be an excellent professional teacher, and aren’t seeking scapegoats for their own failure to provide nurturing homes for our kids.

  10. Who are we evaluating? At one time I thought the assessments were designed to gauge mastery of a subject the student attempted. It appears that everyone is doing a blame game. Parents blame the teacher. Teachers blame the parents. Administrators blame funding. Stop the blame game and take responsibility for self. No one ever looks into the students background, home life, financial situation and determines that these factors could be hindering the child’s willingness to want to learn. Children today face issues that I never dealt with when I was that age. Times have changed and our school system needs to acknowledge that the very flaws we see in our society are alive and well in the schools. The same social problems we face in public will have to be addressed or at least acknowledged in our schools. Stop the fear factor with our teachers and leaders. Everyone is threatening them when a lot of the problem cannot be solved by the schools. We are trying to make the school system a repairing mechanism for the problems our society faces. And nothing gets accomplished that way. We threaten teachers and administrators when they are already doing the best that they can. Teachers fear the principal, the principal fears the superintendent, the superintendent fears the school board, the school board fears the parents, the parents fear the children, and the children fear no one. And no one is making them accountable for their unwillingness to try. When we operate according the law of physics which says for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. In other words, your choices whether good or bad come with consequences. Let that be the theme of education and the difference can be made. Administrators, teachers and parents need to develop a unified front. If it is difficult at your school, establish a parent academy to help educate parents on how they can effective do their job to ensure their child’s success. It’s only real shot we have at getting the results that we want. You can’t accomplish anything by yourself.

  11. I agree with Diane’s comment yesterday that teacher evaluation should be tied to what is authentically going on in the classroom. Any serious and systematic effort to improve the quality of teachers must include a reliable and valid measure of how well they perform in the classroom. A good example, with which I am familiar, is the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) being developed by a partnership between the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Stanford University. It is based on the highly successful Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) and is a multiple-measure assessment system documenting teaching and learning in 3-5 day learning segments for one class of students. TPA includes subject-specific ‘Teaching Events’ on which evidence of practice is gathered through signature assessments that are embedded in coursework, such as child case studies, planning instructional units, analyses of student work, and observations of student teaching. The evidence may consist of artifacts of teaching (lesson plans, video clips of instruction, student work samples, teacher assignments, daily reflections) and reflective commentaries. The Partnership is using the PACT (approved by California as meeting its reliability and validity standards for rigorous teaching performance assessments) as a foundation for the nationally available TPA for evaluating teachers across the continuum of their careers. The primary goal of this initiative is to design and field test the first nationally accessible TPA that will allow districts to analyze teachers’ ability to support and advance student achievement. For more information see: http://www.aacte.org/index.php?/Programs/Teacher-Performance-Assessment-Consortium-TPAC/teacher-performance-assessment-consortium.html.

  12. All. Thank you so much for your insightful commentary and candid conversation. Please keep the comments coming. We are reading and listening!
    Teacher Ambassador Fellows

  13. A study coming out of Harvard on Chile’s education system, which has had privatisation of schools for 20 years, via a voucher system, shows that charter/voucher/private schools do no better than public schools and in fact, exacerbate the rich-poor divide:

    fhttp//www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/events/MPSPE/PEPG-05-13bellei.pdf

    “The competition among schools have not caused an improvement of educational quality, because schools (mainly the private ones) have competed to attract the best students, rather than to increase the value-added to their educational service. In this “zero-sum game”, the increments of some schools are annulled by the decreases of others.

    Additionally, parents’ choices have not necessarily been oriented by indicators of educational quality (because of information deficiencies and parents’ use of non-academic criteria).

    As a consequence, schools have not received signals towards the educational improvement from their customers, but towards the use of status symbols and social segregation.

    Finally, deregulation and free competition have also tended to increase school segregation through a process of mutual reinforcement between schools (supply side) and families (demand side).

    From the supply side, schools have responded to the incentives of the competence, by distorting the indicators of quality by rejecting students who are less likely to succeed in school (applying admissions tests), and those who have demonstrated low capacities (expelling them).

    These sorting and re-sorting mechanisms, massively applied for two decades, have shaped the Chilean school system in its current segregated features.

    From the demand point of view, middle and high social-class families have found that schools’ social and academic selectivity provide them a large profit of “peer effects” within schools: given the high correlation between learning outcomes and student’s social background, when Chilean families aim at social selectivity, they obtain academic selectivity by extension.”

  14. Educational Values/Reform
    I have a thought regarding educational value/reform in America. This thought is not a revolution in the way we educate, teach or learn. It is an evolutionary approach to help increase, or reform, the perceived value of education in the eyes of Americans. Let’s start with a simple question, “What are “American values” or “western values” as the eastern world would call them?” I’m quite sure world has many different answers to this question, and chances are we deserve the praise or ire within their answers. But, how would American’s respond to this question? I can’t begin to imagine all the different answers this question would invoke, but I do know what we ALL should be responding with. “We value our youth, because they are the future of America, both long term and short term!”
    In terms of education, which is the foundation for all countries that are considered industrialized; there is nothing more important, or valuable, then educating the youth! Yet, here in America, we have socially devalued our educational foundation, our importance of our youth and our educational processes as a whole and in America; we don’t believe that our education system, its teachers, its students or our communities are of value in terms of American greatness. Government has revolutionized educational practices, but didn’t take into account the social repercussion for what those revolutionary ideas created in terms of belief systems. For instance, NCLB, a great idea on paper, but in practice has proved to be little more than a footnote in the declining values of American educational failures. NCLB says, without saying it, let’s tell teachers what to teach, (standards); how to teach it, (benchmarks); and then provide an assessment, (state testing). This revolutionary idea is great in theory, but the social perception for what was implemented is the “real” problem. NCLB says, our teachers are incompetent, our schools are incompetent and our communities are incompetent. I would like for you to read a paper done in 2006, (I provided the link below). It discusses, educational reform in Finland; which, by the way, is one of the most literate and educated countries in the world. You will find that they use the same researched teaching/learning strategies that America has implemented, but they get positive results and America does not! Their positive results come from society’s value/perception of education and not teaching/learning practices.
    https://www.msu.edu/user/frassine/EAD845%20-%20Educational%20Reform%20in%20Finland.pdf
    I, whole heartedly, believe that there is no magical or revolutionary idea that can change the current perception of American education, primarily because we are dealing with, “a social perception”. But I do believe, that in time, we can change the negative perception regarding education and replace it with a more positive one. This change is going to have to start small and evolve through competent teaching, successful advertising of results and a proactive campaign for educational certification that focuses entirely on allowing only “the best and brightest” to become American teachers. Better pay might help too! But, I really don’t think more money is the solution. Having a job that is meaningful and valued in the eyes of our neighbors and friends is pay enough. Aretha says, (R E S P E C T) find out what it means to me!

    Fox News (Fair and balanced) or (right and wrong)
    What is right or fair in regards to American public education? Let’s be fair and balanced here, In America we educate all. This is a wonderful privilege afforded to us by our forefathers, but we don’t see it that way anymore. We value education as an American right in today’s society! This simple right instead of privilege belief, changes the value of education and America. It is about time to realize the value of education again, don’t you think? The world sees education as a necessity and parents from around the world see education as a way out of poverty and misery; yet, American’s view public education as joke, a babysitting organization or a general waste of time learning things that they won’t need in the “Real-World”! The arrogant and myopic mindset of American adolescent responsibility is mind boggling.
    Final thought regarding American adolescence. Why do we limit responsibility and consequences for our adolescent age bracket? These teens (Young Adults) are capable of being responsible, yet we don’t hold them accountable. Here are two historical figures you might recognize, who were given responsibilities at a young age and stepped up to meet the challenge.
    1. David Farragut, the U.S. Navy’s first admiral, became a midshipman on the warship Essex at the age of 10. At the age of 12, a mere boy by modern standards, Farragut was given command of his first ship, sailing a capture vessel, crew, and prisoners, back to the U.S. after a successful battle. Young David was given responsibility at an early age, and he rose to the occasion.

    2. The father of our country, George Washington, though never thought to be particularly bright by his peers, began to master geometry, trigonometry, and surveying when he would have been a 5th or 6th grader in our day and ceased his formal education at 14 years of age. At the age of 16 he was named official surveyor for Culpepper County, Virginia. For the next three years, Washington earned nearly $100,000 a year (in modern purchasing power). By the age of 21, he had leveraged his knowledge of the surrounding land, along with his income, to acquire 2,300 acres of prime Virginian land.
    These examples astound us in our day and age, but this is because we view life through an extra social category called ‘adolescence’, a category that would have been completely foreign to men and women just 100 years ago. Prior to the late 1800s there were only 3 categories of age: childhood, adulthood, and old age. It was only with the coming of the early labour movement with its progressive child labour laws, coupled with new compulsory schooling laws, that a new category, called adolescence, was invented. Coined by G. Stanley Hall, who is often considered the father of American psychology, ‘adolescence’ identified the artificial zone between childhood and adulthood when young people ceased to be children, but were no longer permitted by law to assume the normal responsibilities of adulthood, such as entering into a trade or finding gainful employment. Consequently, marriage and family had to be delayed as well, and so we invented ‘the teenager’, an unfortunate creature that has all the yearnings and capabilities of an adult, but none of the freedoms, responsibilities or consequences that come from being an adult.
    Learning assessments should be locally owned by parent, teacher, school and county. Government is not doing anything to help education. It is hurting our perceived value by not trusting its communities and teachers to educate our youth! Government is devaluing our education, not helping!

  15. Students with severe special needs have been included into the mix of testing under “No Child Left Behind”, billions of dollars are being spent on Alternative Assessments for this population to meet the criteria under NCLB. It is a waste of time and money. Most of these students have been placed on the Autistic Spectrum, when in fact they are profound or severely mentally disabled. With very low to no cognitive abilities, however teachers are pressed to assess these students, required to teach academics to students who have no clue what the teacher is talking about. Students with no speech, no personal care skills, can’t cross the street alone or take care of personal needs. The nation wide alternative assessments are a magic show. Teachers are pressured into performing miracles with these students. The student is not being tested, but the teacher. It is fraud, I recently retired from NYCDOE, because I refused to lie and commit fraud. I was not permitted to teach adaptive living skills to my students, to insure that they could brush their teeth, take care of personal toileting needs, cross the street alone or learn to function in society once they aged out. In truth, my students would be supervised 24/7 for the rest of their lives. The only persons receiving benefit from these alternative assessment tests is the publishers of these tests. The testing process across the board (all grade levels in all age groups,in regular ed or special ed) is a fraud and no one is paying attention. We all need to wake up and smell the coffee, our education system is being destroyed for profits. Privatizing our education system is nothing more than big business! The officials in charge don’t want parents or the community to know what they are doing, they are raping our education system and we are not eduating our children, we are creating “educate idiots”.

  16. During the past 17 months, this U.S. President and congress have worked tirelessly to stabilize the U.S. economy; yet, the unemployment is soaring at 9.9% today.

    Just as it is absolutely absurd for anyone to place the blame solely on this President and Congress for the state of U.S. economy at this time, it is also absurd to place the blame solely on a teacher for their students’ performance at this time.

    After the President and Congress set and implement policy, there are many factors involved in the job creation process. Despite, the Presidents’ efforts, economists predict that it may take 3-5 years before we a signficant improvement in U.S. employment.

    Likewise, student growth is affected by many factors. If we are going to hold teachers accountable for the student performance, we must consider all the factors involved.

    First, student growth must be clearly defined and this definition must reflect the complexity involved.

    Second, Data collected from any diagnostic tool should be used to inform, not to punish or inhibit progress.

    Third, establishing national goals is fine but each individual school district should decide on the specific measures to be used in defining teacher effectiveness.

    Depending on the school district this may include Teacher Observation, Preparation, Student Observation and Interaction, Parental Involvement and Outreach, Enrichment Activities, etc.

    Finally, rather than pondering punitive measures which inhibit progres, student growth would pobably be more likely if we keep the focus on strategies which motivate or encourage high achievement

  17. The state exams are all too often exceedingly superficial, ludicrously spread out and susceptible to huge variance due to guessing alone. The increasing focus on them is unquestionably a factor in dumbing down, dehumanizing and deadening education.

    Also, if a supervisor or principal enforces certain methodologies or adherences to a school mission that affect student performance, why should the teacher be solely responsible for that? On the other hand, most competent reasonable supervisors can gauge, roughly, student engagement and teacher competence through both informal and formal observations. The data should be entirely secondary and not binding. It should not place teachers in positions of begging students to study for the exams, begging parents to take responsibility, etc.

    School missions and methods, staff commitment to those things as well as others, and community/parental involvement are far more important issues than the micromanagement of teacher quality (that no one is truly qualified to undertake or oversee) that is going on now, which is destructive and demoralizing. There has been a need in the recent past for more accountability to standards, more overall responsibility, higher levels of competence across the board, and less corruption, but this has largely been addressed and corrected. Now, we’re moving backwards in a very dysfunctional way, not toward the old ways but toward new, more insidious types of corruption and fraud.

  18. It’s a ridiculous question. Yes, teacher effectivness is connected with how much his or her students learn or how much they grow as individuals. That’s obvious. The problem comes when the government thinks it can measure that. It can’t. The tools at its disposal are far too crude, so it just makes a hatchet job of it. Maybe some day we’ll have light touch, nuanced, high precision means of assessment, but we don’t yet. Until we do, and not before they are thoroughly validated, please stop pushing crank evaluation schemes down the pipe.

  19. I am a high school teacher that came into teaching through an alternative route. By this I mean that I hold a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a masters in arts and teaching. I am currently teaching in the science department in my high school and believe me, I also want to teach math because these kids need help.

    I am not afraid of a pre and post assessment of these kids because I know my students know more after I am done with them. But I am concerned that only teachers are held accountable.

    I am wondering. If a student is not meeting standard, is it possible to fire the parent? I mean, the parent seems to not be feeding the child properly (junk food), not able to get the child to have a pleasant and non-hostile attitude towards school. So, if the teacher loses his/her job, can the parent lose his/her job as well? Would that not be fair. We are all about fairness of course and we have the students best interest.

    Now, I am being sarcastic of course but do understand the dynamics of high school education and that students bring in more to the classroom than just their brains. They also bring baggage and as teachers we are forced to work around them. Can we get some help on the baggage so we can focus on the teaching.

    Thank you.

  20. The one thing you don’t want to do is tie test scores, and especially standardized test scores, to teacher quality. As I teach my 5th graders, you have to control the variables in order to know what is really causing the effect. This is elementary statistics. If I am going to be evaluated based on my students’ scores on a test, you can bet that I will put all my attention on that result. Does that mean I am an effective teacher? NO, it just means, for this test, I forced attention on securing a desired result. Whether or not it’s good for the student is of no concern. We need to make THAT the focus, what does quality education for a student look like? What kind of school would you want for your own child? Evaluate me on those indicators. For example, in math, is my goal that they solve problems by rote, or that they develop conceptual understanding of numbers and operations. You can go into my classroom, and observe what we are doing, and be able to tell. In science, do I want them to learn facts for a test, or do I want them to learn how to think scientifically. You can observe my class and be able to tell what my goals are. If you are looking at growth, you can look at their learning products from the first quarter to the last. Teacher quality must be assessed by what is really going on in the classroom. All states have some kind of guideline such as Qualities of an Effective Teacher. I know in my state, these guidelines are sound. We know it guides us as professionals. What you are looking for may be a way to put these guidelines in some kind of form that individual teachers can be judged by. Whatever is done, has to be done with teachers collaborating and in states that have collective bargaining rights, here is the perfect venue – negotiations with the result ratified by the rank and file. Teachers want to be effective and they want to be recognized. Perhaps some kind of designation as in the higher ed system could be formulated, e.g. assistant prof., associate prof, full prof. In this system, don’t they apply for these higher positions, which come with more responsibilities? For example, if I am an entry level teacher, and I want to apply to be a master teacher, I would have to have a resume that shows that I have gone above and beyond the call of duty, perhaps by writing and winning grants for projects, I have documented student growth through authentic products, I reflect on my practice by writing blogs, which can be dated to show that I am doing it authentically and not just because it was due for my annual evaluation. TIE TEACHER EVALUATION TO WHAT IS AUTHENTICALLY GOING ON IN THE CLASSROOM and MAKE WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE CLASSROOM RELEVANT AND MEANINGFUL FOR THE CHILD.

  21. I am currently in college at Appalachian State University to be a High School Teacher and I am currently a North Carolina Teaching Fellow going into my junior year and frankly this question terrifies me. At times it seems the government is prepared to base the potential of a teacher solely on the scores of the children whom they teach and that is outrageous! How are you going to rate my level of knowledge and dedication? Are you going to measure it against how well my 14 year old student bubbles in a test sheet?

    The fact of the matter is that many of the people discussion this question have not studied educational philosophy and do not seem to understand that no two children are exactly alike. We all had our aptitudes in school, I for one was especially gifted in History and thus I chose to pursue that. Meanwhile in math I was horrendous. Should my 10th grade Math teacher have suffered because of my low achievement? Even had his skill be measured against GROWTH rather than individual scores I can guarantee you that little could be done.

    Many times has the thought drifted into my mind, that I should avoid High School education at all costs in favor of teaching at a collegiate level. Teachers are underpaid, unappreciated, and soon to be completely extinct because someone had the notion that test scores equate to my abilities.

    The US could learn a great deal from foreign educational systems by providing more for the STUDENT side of education rather than the TEACHER side. As stated by a previous contributor is a students responsibility to learn and that is usually facilitated by interest. Do more to provide for studying a students interests and creating individualized career paths into more vocational studies or what that child chooses to study, rather than mass produce robots who can regurgitate to me how to fill out a bubble shit on test day and how best to rule out answers.

    At times I really do think I am entering one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. When will officials start listening to teachers. Last time I checked students and parents did not receive their diploma in education.

  22. This past week I received the results of my state’s 11th Grade Literacy Exam and it was not good. We did not make adequately yearly progress and only 41% of my students were proficient. It was near lunch when I received the news so I turned my lights off and cried like someone had died. My mind told me I had prepared them but my heart was breaking. I left school and drove around crying. When I made it back to class, I was literally drained. As I called each student to my desk and gave them their scores, it was bittersweet…those who were proficient were so happy and those not proficient were devastated. They felt confident after the test and believed they were going to be proficient…had I led them to believe this?

  23. Leonie,

    The absence of consistent family and community involvement with respect to education has allowed policy makers an opportunity to usurp educational authority away from its key players: parents, community members, teachers, and administrators. The longer all of us stay either complacent or ambivalent, the longer the unqualified experts will wield power. We must find common ground from which to unite so to begin the processes of returning educational power and decision making back to its rightful owners; the people.

  24. Parents do not want teachers vilified, blamed and punished. That harms schools and students. We want our children’s schools and teachers supported, not attacked, by government policies. “Measure and punish” is not an effective principle for teaching students or for creating strong schools. The administration needs to press RESET on the entire philosophy behind its education strategy. Please respect and listen to educators and parents — not amateurs, think-tank propagandists and billionaires.

  25. Growth has huge limits in defining teacher effectiveness. My daughter was able to score a 5 on an AP test, despite having had one of the worst teachers in her life that year. On the other hand, her ELA scores didn’t go up much during a year that she had one of the most rigorous, organized, and demanding teachers of her life. I recall a middle school assistant principal telling me how frustrating it was for her to see students choosing to doodle in the margins on the test instead of trying to answer the questions.

    Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman has been studying the Perry Preschool Project and has been looking into the importance of motivation during actual test-taking. On a 10/09 American RadioWorks program he said, “Motivation really matters when it comes to testing. The very tests that purport to measure how smart you are, or how much you know – these tests are time consuming, and hard. You need a reason to do well. Incentives make a difference…” You need to talk to him. A lot of kids know they don’t have any impact on their lives and so won’t bother to try to do well on the tests at all. Why should a teacher be punished for that?

    Also, what about the Department of Education having conversations with dedicated and experienced public school parents? Parents like me who have been highly active at our children’s schools have experienced them first hand for years. We have a body of knowledge to share with you that isn’t being tapped. I’ve had year-long contact with 63 teachers over the past 17 years; and contact with a number of them for multiple years. This doesn’t even take into account all the teachers I know about from friends and school activities.

    Before you make any more misguided plans, you need to hear from knowledgeable parents like me; we have a wealth of information waiting to be tapped. PS: It might interest you to know that my daughters’ schools are 55-65% FRPL, high minority schools in advanced PI and have been labeled as “failing” for many years. You might say I have developed my perspective from our family’s place at ground zero. Who at the Dept. of Ed. can say that?

  26. Tests: It’s been said many times before, but children are not measurable entities (other than physical measurements which are objectively measured). We need to get away from the mechanistic model of the human being which measures “performance” and “outcomes” and return to the humanistic model. The world needs well-adjusted, well-educated, socially responsible, compassionate individuals who know how to solve the dramatic problems facing the world in peaceful, creative ways. Passing reading and math tests is no preparation for the current and future world.

    Poverty: It is indeed not an excuse BUT it is a condition that cannot be denied nor ignored (such as cancer). It is no coincidence that poor children do not perform on TESTS as well as their middle class and affluent counterparts. It is tantamount to racing an olympic trained athlete against one with a broken leg. It simply isn’t fair. Yes, we can spend tons of money training poor kids to pass tests too, by spending their whole day practicing practicing practicing and then a few more hours at the end of the day to practice some more at home-while the middle class kids are playing baseball, taking music, ballet, horse back riding lessons etc. Let’s take all that money that’s being spent on test prep programs and materials, “coaches”, and the tests themselves and spend it on giving EVERY CHILD A MIDDLE CLASS EDUCATION.
    Provide poor school communities with the following resources: medical and dental clinics, psychological counseling, services for children with physical and learning disabilities in their schools, programs to address domestic and drug abuse.
    Stipends for parents willing to attend classes on improving literacy and numeracy skills in the home.
    If we help parents, we help their children and help to break the cycle of poverty.

    Teachers: End the current cycle of teacher bashing. Stop pitting public schools against charter schools. Stop running ads telling parents to “Stop listening to the teacher unions”. When teachers are treated as the professionals that they are, then perhaps we won’t need unions to protect us. Right now we need protection more than ever. Make salaries independent of school budgets causing principals to no longer want experienced teachers in their schools because they are too expensive. Stop pitting new young teachers against older, experienced teachers. Both are needed.

    Administration: Have pedagogues run education, NOT POLITICIANS AND CORPORATIONS AND LAWYERS! Education is a profession, and an art just as medicine is. We don’t have politicians etc. telling doctors what to do. Why are they telling teachers how to teach? In my entire career I have never heard so many bad things said about teachers in the press. Surely there are poor teachers, poor doctors, poor lawyers, poor plumbers. Why denigrate the entire profession?
    Start treating teachers as the professionals that they are…with the respect and admiration that they deserve.
    DO NOT PAY TEACHERS FOR IMPROVED TEST SCORES! We should always be working as hard as we can, not because of a monetary carrot dangling before us.

  27. I resent the fact that parents have been left out of this discussion altogether; we know that test prep is already driving art, music and other subjects out of our children’s schools; and is leading to less time spent on real learning.

    As long as teacher quality is equated with test scores, this trend will continue; and the test scores themselves will become even less reliable over time.

    The equation of teacher quality with test scores will also lead to teachers being less willing to teach in high-needs schools, with the legitimate fear of being stigmatized as less effective or of losing their jobs.

    The National Academy of Sciences has also pointed out that value-added test scores as a route to evaluate teacher effectiveness is not ready for prime time; why is the US DOE not listening?

  28. There are many well articulated agruments that do not hold teachers accountable for their students making academic growth over the course of a year. Academic growth certainly isn’t everything a teacher is responsible for, but isn’t one of the main things? Absent a perfect instrument for measuring this, couldn’t we agree that the use of perhaps two or three different norm-referenced measurements would give us a good sense of a child’s academic growth? If your children aren’t growing then you have a problem. Teachers, if we keep falling back on the “academic growth is just too complicated to measure” position, then the public will rightfully take these decisions into their own hands.

  29. The second you begin to put stakes on test scores, whether those stakes are for students or for teachers and schools, you get distortion. People at the Department of Education need to learn the truth of the law stated more than 30 years ago by Donald Campbell: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

    The problem is not solved by measuring student growth. Case one – you use tests aligned with one another and measure Spring to Spring – your results are confounded by the well-recognized summer learning loss that hits those of lower socio-economic status. Case two – you measure fall to spring – now you are increasing the amount of testing, and you still have the problem that those results can be contaminated by students deliberately doing poorly on the fall applications.

    Further, we are then trying to use one test for multiple purposes, something on which the professional experts have rightly raised serious cautions. First, a test that is designed to allow the drawing for valid inferences on one matter, say what a student knows at that point, are not necessarily capable of providing for the drawing of valid inferences for another purpose – what the student has learned in school, how effective the teacher has been.

    Teacher “effectiveness” includes things far beyond student test scores. Are students willing to take intellectual risks? Is the classroom a safe environment for trying out ideas? Does the classroom allow for differences in how students learn? Is there protection from bullying? Are students who are not as quick to verbally offer an answer provided an opportunity to participate, or do the motormouths dominate? These are just a very few of the questions that can be raised.

    What responsibilities belong more on the students? On families? On the community?

    I am a high school teacher. I do not teach in isolation from the other courses my students take, the activities in which they participate, the pressures of home, their relationships with their peers. How are these to be taken into account in evaluating teacher performance?

    If I am to be evaluated on how my students do, why then cannot I not be given greater flexibility in meeting their individual needs? Of course, for that to happen, it might help if I didn’t have 37 in an advanced placement class, or a total student load of 180. I should not be held to strict pacing guides.

    And then how do you evaluate a year like this: we lost 9 full days to snow. We had two 3-hour early dimissals (which meant I did not see two of my 6 classes), and we had three 2hour delays. The state forgave 5 days, and we added 4 days to the end of the year. But all the testing stayed on the days originally scheduled. If my student scores are lower this year than last, does that mean I am a less effective teacher?

    If the purpose of teacher evaluation is framed in a punitive fashion, such as we need to dismiss the bottom 5% or 10% of teachers, it will be destructive of meaningful teaching. If the purpose of evaluation is to assist teachers in being more effective, then we can talk.

  30. Duncan is pushing community partnership ala Paul Hill of It Takes a City……both race to top awards were led by community groups/foundations as was the Teacher Quality Partnership grant that I authored.

    So I see a move to incent teacher quality while leveraging foundation investments in community. Read What Ever It Takes if you want to taste the future…..we are living it…….successful parenting and teachers that have much discretionary authority is the ticket…..

    And with a growth model that hopefully comes out of ESEA we can get to student as active agent……using what is already embedded in NCTM……assessment for learning…..our kids do rubrics, unpack standards and objectives and put into kid friendly language and set goals and the teacher is trained to be able to provide descriptive feedback…..we are getting .04 to .07 effect size, we have stopped using summative data to chase the measures, and sort kids…….we use formative assessment ala Paul Black.

    I for one hope Duncan presses even harder to empower the community partnership model while teachers and principals move to educator professionalism….

    Our next grant did just that….School Leadership….our sitting prinicpals and assistant principals will become NBCP….Natl Board Certified Principals in a parallel residency where out rural teacher residents work with the principal to design and implement curriculum, assessment for learning, skills-based learning and College Board AP.

    In the future we are developing international benchmarking a “Educators without Boarders” where we go to select nations and work with the best….

    So to those who cannot imagine…..I say come on in the water is nice

  31. Teachers are not afraid of accountability. What worries most of my colleagues are reductionistic approaches that serve only to distort what is actually going on in the culture of the schools and in their respective communities. Inequalities are rife in our culture, and it should not be a shock to learn that schools are a reflection of that same trend. Poor kids who’s basic needs aren’t being met are not doing well in school. This isn’t surprising, but it is an emergency that demands policies grounded in reality, not faulty assumptions.

    While education is the major pathway to class mobility, it is only one arrow in the quiver of government to address social ills such as poverty, child abuse, ignorance, hunger, and lack of medical care. Why has the war against these things turned into a war against public education and the heroes holding the system together? Using testing data to evaluate teaches ignores the rest of the moving parts of the machine.

    Educational problem solving requires that we spend the majority of our time and effort on analyzing and identifying the issue so that we don’t end up “fixing” the wrong problem. Our policy makers have skipped the problem identification phase of educational problem solving and seem to have identified “poor teaching” as THE reason behind the social/educational problems our kids are dealing with.

    I’m dismayed that the Obama Education Department seems to have jumped on the “blame public school teachers” bandwagon that has characterized the past decade of policy. Accountability systems that focus narrowly on student test scores are not going to get results because they are based on the faulty premise that poor teaching is the problem. Anyone who has first hand experience in the trenches of education knows this down in their guts.

    I’m afraid that many of our decision makers are being impressed with the promise of a data driven system that is divorced from the realities on the ground. Our kids enter the schoolhouse with some incredible burdens that are impossible to quantify, but which significantly impact their educational performance: hunger, abuse, poverty, disability, untreated mental health problems, and the cultural legacy of racial and attendant economic inequality. As a school psychologist it is my job to evaluate and help ameliorate these underlying factors, and I know they make a HUGE difference in a kid’s educational performance.

    Once our kids have a level playing field out there in the culture, perhaps standardize measures of “teacher effectiveness” might be possible. Once we have standardized kids, standardized communities, and true equality of opportunity perhaps this might work. Until then we should leave the evaluation of teachers and the measurement of student progress up to those who work with kids and teachers directly.

  32. Collin,

    I truly believe that if we as teachers (and unions) begin to advocate for our students as much as we do for ourselves, we can regain professional autonomy. Districts, states, and the federal government have used our pursuit of job security to leverage power away from us and into their pockets. We must realign our pursuits to caring for and ensuring that our students receive a QUALITY education. “We the people…”

  33. I agree with many of the comments posted, and I teach in Texas, where standardized tests are the “end all and be all” assessment packages. We are already crippled by the facilitation of these exams, and next year, I have come to learn, we will be implementing yet another mandated exam in addition to the one we already take.
    Currently, all faculty meetings are spent looking at graphs, tables, and charts of student performance on standardized tests, which are inconclusive due to many variables. I fear that my job is having less to do with teaching and inspiring curiosity, and more to do with facilitating a passive testing environment. I also must confess reservations I have that the state requires schools to take these exams written by the same well-lobbied companies that provide textbooks and resources to assist us with preparing kids for the exams.
    But here is the main point…..What can we do about it? What can be done to help implement these reforms?

  34. Yes, I am a high school teacher.

    Maybe I am way out of line, maybe I am just out of touch with reality…when did the responsibility of LEARNING fall on the shoulders of the teacher. He or she is supposed to teach. The students are supposed to learn. Help me if I am missing something.

    Do I think teachers can be more effective? Of course, but I also think there is less responsibility placed on the student.

    I can’t teach when I have to get them to sit down, turn around, put away cell phone, Ipod, etc. I am not the one who is NOT doing the homework. I am not the one who is not studying for tests.

    The testing system allegedly measures the effectiveness of the teacher, but does not measure the person taking the test – the student. Is this fair? Is this just? Is this statistically appropriate?

    There is no pre-test of any students to have a baseline to see if the teacher was effective. End of course tests do not measure how the student may have grown.

    There are several things in the classroom that the teacher can control. Unfortunately, there are more things the teacher cannot control in the classroom. Those aren’t measured by any testing that I have observed.

  35. When it comes to teacher effectiveness I believe that we must take into account student growth. However, the basal assumption that effectiveness must be based a “significant” amount on student growth ignores the rest of the things that teachers must do.
    In order to accurately reflect the effectiveness of teachers we also must take into account the things that are related to the school that they teach in, like their administration, the amount of collegial interaction with other teachers, what professional development they have pursued (is it related to the area that they are teaching? Is it related to what they have indicated they need to improve their skills?), their type of degree (have they continued to pursue education?), the starting point of the students in their class, the engagement of the parents in their class, the overall climate of the school, the opinions of the parents, the opinions of the teachers, the opinions of their peers, the opinions of their principal/administrator, their performance in relation to other teachers who have received the same training (what college they graduated from if within the first couple years of their career).

    There are undoubtedly other factors, and some of the above could probably be collapsed together, but the gist of my opinion is that if we are going to hold teachers accountable we must take into account the other factors – those that they can control and hold constant or control for those that they cannot control.

  36. The NSDC website (http://www.nsdc.org/standards/quality.cfm) has a concise discussion of teacher quality with an annotated bibliography. I highly recommend the following article to anyone who is interested in better understanding the current debate about teacher quality in education:
    Fenstermacher, G. & Richardson, V. (2005). On making determinations of quality teaching. Teachers College Record, 107(1), 186-213.
    The authors examine the concept of quality teaching by exploring its conceptual, empirical, and normative properties. The authors begin by analyzing the concept of teaching, separating it into what teacher do (behaviors) and what students learn. Fenstermacher and Richardson assert that good teaching (what teachers do) is not the same as successful teaching (teaching that produces student learning). For teaching to be both good and successful, it must be conjoined with factors well beyond the range of control of the classroom teacher. The analysis of the concept of teaching is then used to explore three strands of research on teaching: process-product, cognitive science, and constructivist. The article concludes with an analysis of the policy implications of this explication of quality teaching.

    The biggest problem with using students’ standardized test scores as a part of any measure of teacher effectiveness is the tests were not designed to measure that. They have a very limited use, yet are constantly misused in high stakes decisions and for accountability purposes. Teaching is complex. Therefore, any evaluation of good and successful teaching should reflect that complexity, not reduce it to a number or a single adjective.

  37. I believe that public education has over-organized to the point of dysfunction. We are trying to take on too many roles and responsibilities previously tended to by individuals, families, and communities. With all of the money that we spend and the structures that we create we move further away from the essence of our function; to educate.

    In answer to the aforementioned question, I think genuine teacher effectiveness cannot be gauged via the results of some form of assessment administered to students. Students are not computers nor are they some manufactured product that can be engineered to the degree of perfection. True effectiveness takes the form of noise, messiness, creativity, and the ability to become personally aligned as an educator and further translating that aligned state into your classroom.

    I truly feel that if we scale back the involvement of the federal government and return decision making powers back to communities, districts, and states we will achieve the ultimate goal of any educator; students success.

    Data collected via assessments should be used as diagnostic tools and to inform instruction, not to create a punitive and inflexible landscape that inhibits teacher decision- making. Teachers are not the “be all to end all,” they are only one piece in a larger puzzle. We must find innovative ways to awaken individuals, families, and communities to their responsibilities with respect to public education. The larger and more defined the institution of education is, the less effective it becomes. That is where we are today.

    Shock the American public and begin discussing the option of destandardizing and decentralizing public education. Admit fallibility, but convey a desire to uncover true solutions by returning power to the people of the respective states. Innovation will be discovered by private citizens, not public policy makers and institutions.

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