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Report: Teachers and Policymakers Differ on Effectiveness Measures

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Teachers’ views on how instructional effectiveness should be measured, as well as how it could be improved, are not well-aligned with current education policy initiatives, according to a new survey report.

The survey, conducted by Learning Point Associates and Public Agenda, found that the most popular indicator of instructional effectiveness among classroom educators is student engagement in coursework, with 92 percent of public school teachers surveyed rating it as a “good” or “excellent” measure.

By contrast, only 56 percent of teachers rated student performance on standardized tests as a good or excellent teacher-effectiveness indicator, making it the least popular option. Teachers with less than five years experience were more likely than experienced teachers to be opposed to this approach.

Other indicator options included how much students are learning in comparison with students in other schools (with 72 percent good or excellent rating) and feedback from principals or administrators (71 percent). No single indicator was rated as “excellent” by a majority of the teachers surveyed.

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Read the complete report, "Convergence and Contradictions in Teachers’ Perceptions of Policy Reform Ideas," part of Learning Point Associates and Public Agenda's "Retaining Teacher Talent" series.

The study, titled “Convergence and Contradictions in Teachers’ Perceptions of Policy Reform Ideas,” is intended to inform education-policy discussions by bringing greater attention to teachers’ own views. A number of recent policy efforts, prominently including the federal government’s Race to the Top competition, have sought to tie teacher evaluation and compensation more closely to measures of teacher effectiveness, with a particular emphasis on student test-score results.

The study suggests that policymakers need to do a better job of including teachers in debates and “building legitimacy” for planned reforms.

Addressing Discipline and Class Sizes

In addition to effectiveness measures, the researchers looked at teachers’ views on initiatives to improve instructional effectiveness. Of the approaches given, the teachers surveyed gave the highest percentages of “very effective” ratings to removing students with severe discipline problems from the classroom (68 percent), reducing classes by about five students (66 percent), and preparing teachers to adapt or vary instruction in a diverse classroom (61 percent).

The lowest “very effective” ratings went to tying teacher compensation to student performance (eight percent) and eliminating teacher tenure (nine percent).

In related findings, the study found that teachers who see themselves as effective were more likely to have smaller class sizes and fewer students with special needs than other teachers. “Self-perceived effective teachers” were also more likely to be positive about their working conditions and the instructional feedback they receive from their principals.

Education policy efforts in the past year have “focused on teacher evaluation and teacher preparation as well as alternative ways to compensate and reward teachers,” the report concludes. “These reform ideas are not the most popular from teachers’ perspectives.”

That disconnect, the report suggests, “may be problematic when it comes to [policy] implementation.”

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