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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Effective Teacher Preparation & Evaluation: What Does It Look Like?

By Guest Blogger — April 11, 2013 4 min read
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Note: Rick Hess is on sabbatical through May 6th. If you’re missing him, you might try to catch him while he’s out and about discussing his new book Cage-Busting Leadership (available here, e-book available here). For updates on when he might be in your neck of the woods, check here. Meantime, a tremendous lineup of guest stars has kindly agreed to step in while Rick’s gone and share their own thoughts on the opportunities, challenges, implications, and nature of cage-busting leadership.

Guest blogging this week is Lydia Logan, managing director of Chiefs for Change. Chiefs for Change is a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders who are committed to putting children first through bold, visionary education reform to increase student achievement and prepare students for success in colleges and careers.

We can all agree that an effective teacher can have a meaningful and lasting impact on a child’s life. However, determining which teachers are effective and where professional development or differential compensation should be targeted is a debate that is raging on in states across our nation.

As state education leaders, these are questions we grapple with every day. Each child has one shot at a good education, and it is incumbent upon those of us in the field of education to ensure that he or she gets it.

The fact of the matter remains that if we are to truly make a difference, we must drastically change our thinking about the teaching profession. Cage-busting leadership is not only needed in each state’s education departments, it is essential in the education departments of every college and university in the country. Meaningful reform requires bold action, such as tying growth in K-12 student achievement to teacher preparation programs and developing strong alternative licensure programs for professionals who want to enter the profession. Effective teaching begins with effective teacher preparation.

A couple of organizations are taking thoughtful approaches to improving the quality of training that teachers receive in an effort to better prepare them before they enter the classroom. The National Council on Teacher Quality is working on strategies for improvement of teacher preparation programs and is completing a national review of more than 1,100 programs to be published in U.S. News and World Report this June. The newly-formed Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is recommending new standards for teacher preparation programs that include raising minimum admissions criteria. And, several states are working on their own policies and strategies for improving teacher preparation.

All of the burden should not fall on teacher preparation programs, but they are the bedrock of developing effective teachers. Other countries with students who routinely out-perform American students on international exams, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), have maintained a high bar for entry into the teaching profession. Unfortunately, America has taken a different approach, which has resulted in onerous, necessary, but insufficient, systems of evaluation for teachers after they have completed training and are placed in classrooms.

If we take our responsibility of providing a good education to every child seriously, we must be able to identify those teachers who are exceeding expectations so that we can learn from them and share their methods. We also must identify teachers who are struggling and provide them with the support and feedback that they need in order to improve or transition to another profession. Further, we should take a page out of Boeing’s book and, in the same way that they provide feedback on the performance of their engineers to the institutions where they were trained, we must provide feedback to the institutions that train teachers so that preparation of future classes can be improved based on that knowledge.

Chiefs for Change members have led the way in executing initiatives that evaluate and strengthen the effectiveness of teachers in their states. Every member state has enacted, or is in the process of enacting, teacher evaluation systems that require student learning gains be a part of the equation. In fact, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Tennessee were recognized in a Bellwether report last August for enacting teacher-effectiveness legislation or regulations.

From anecdotal stories to longitudinal studies, we know that a great teacher makes a world of difference in a child’s education and future. That is why Chiefs for Change members believe in using fair and valid evaluation measures that emphasize student achievement data and growth, with a goal of closing achievement gaps. Highly-effective teachers must be recognized, rewarded and supported based on their performance, rather than just their certification or credentials - especially until teacher preparation programs do a better job of preparing teachers for the difficult career that they have chosen.

The majority of states are in the process of implementing higher state standards and shared assessments that require deeper learning and demonstration of applied knowledge. Now more than ever, we must focus on the link between teacher preparation and teacher performance at the same time that we advance teacher evaluation systems so that both educators and students are positioned for success from the day they enter the classroom.

- Lydia Logan

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.