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Measuring Teacher Effectiveness

The federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) money needed to fill Maine’s severe budget gap and fund schools came with strings attached. 

In order to receive it, Governor Baldacci signed “four assurances” regarding school reform:  (1) adopting rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments; (2) establishing data systems and using data for improvement; (3) increasing teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of effective teachers; and (4) turning around the lowest-performing schools. 

The big question that will impact your school is: “How do you define an ‘Effective Teacher?’.” 

If you are a little nervous about defining teacher effectiveness, then you should take the time to consider how we might measure it.  Is it possible to measure teacher effectiveness with a single test score? Is it possible to rely on principal evaluations?     What system would make sense?

In short order, Maine needs to define teacher effectiveness and how to measure it. Because the timeline for accountability for spending ARRA money is tight and because accountability for the funds is at an unprecedented high, policy decisions are being made very quickly.

In testimony before Congress, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association (NEA), focused on the working conditions necessary for all teachers to be effective. He stated: “NEA has worked with more than 2,000 of the nation’s best teachers who told us what will attract and keep our most effective teachers in our most challenging schools:

•Good principals who both know how to lead and support teacher leadership;
•A commitment to creative teaching and inquiry-based learning, not scripted instruction;
•The opportunity to team with a critical mass of highly-skilled teachers who share responsibility for every student’s success;
•Improved working conditions; and
•Additional pay to recognize the difficult work in turning around a struggling school.

Working conditions are of paramount concern when it comes to decisions about working in high-needs schools. Teachers, like surgeons, require a well equipped environment in which to do their best work. We cannot expect them to be successful if we do not provide the tools and resources needed to do the job.”

In a memo to the states, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan set forth the challenge:

“Teacher effectiveness is a major influence on students’ academic success.  Districts and school leaders can improve teacher effectiveness and address inequitable teacher distribution through how they recruit, hire, induct, develop, evaluate, advance, and compensate teachers.  Moreover, they can create the school conditions that foster teacher effectiveness and retention such as excellent school leadership, time for collaboration, and a culture of continuous improvement.” 

He presented as examples:

•Implement a fair and reliable teacher evaluation system that provides ongoing feedback to teachers about their performance based on objective measures of student achievement outcomes and multiple classroom observations, that gives guidance for improving instructional practices, and that is used to inform teacher professional development and advancement.
•Redesign teacher professional development and school schedules to ensure that teacher learning opportunities are sustained, job-embedded, collaborative, data-driven, and focused on student instructional needs.  Help teachers master relevant content knowledge, especially for middle and high school teachers in hard-to-staff subject areas, such as math and science.  Provide intense professional development over two years and additional training to highly effective teachers who will be able to serve as expert instructional leaders and coaches in the future.
•Support new teachers in their first two years on the job through induction programs that include structured mentoring, teacher networks, and extensive professional development. 
•Provide professional development for special education and general education teachers on evidence-based school-wide strategies in reading, math, writing, science, and other subject areas, and positive behavioral supports to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.
•Train school staff to partner with families to improve student learning, including helping staff clearly communicate about school programs and individual student progress and fostering involvement in school activities and decision making.  Support home visits, family nights, and parent training that help families make informed decisions about their children's academic program, request needed services, assist with homework, and support learning in other ways.
•Upgrade school leader recruitment efforts and create a two-year program of professional development and coaching, with special attention to new principals, to increase principal effectiveness in raising school performance.
•Redesign teacher and principal compensation systems to reward factors related to contribution and effectiveness.  Increase pay to attract and retain effective math and science teachers.”


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