Teacher Quality: The Role of New Forms of Compensation

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Two Commentaries published recently in these pages discussed several initiatives created to provide quality assurance that all students in all classrooms will be taught by well-prepared and competent teachers. ("On Teacher Quality: The View From Teachers," May 19, 1999.) The authors stressed efforts to strengthen preservice teacher preparation, an evolving shift toward performance-based teacher licensing, and recognition of accomplished teaching through certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. These initiatives are sound and on the right track, but they are not sufficient. A complete teacher-quality-assurance system also needs a redesigned human-resources system, including new forms of teacher compensation.

Most teachers today, even well-prepared teachers, enter school systems with weak human-resources systems.

Most teachers today, even well-prepared teachers, enter school systems with weak human-resources systems. These systems are not strong at recruiting or selecting well-prepared and competent teachers. Just a small number have explicit standards for performance that are used for either ongoing teacher professional development or evaluation. And only a very few pay teachers for knowledge, skills, and professional expertise.

These anemic human-resources strategies need to be completely transformed if the hope for teacher-quality assurance is to be realized. It is not sufficient just to focus at the front end on teacher preparation and at the back end on recognizing more experienced, accomplished teachers. Well-prepared and competent novice teachers need to enter a system that relentlessly continues to develop their teaching expertise, provides an array of extensive and ongoing professional-development opportunities, periodically assesses their practice to rigorous performance standards, and pays them for developing and deploying this needed professional expertise. Indeed, this strategy provides pathways for teachers to systematically develop their knowledge and skills to a level that at some point would meet the high and rigorous standards of the national board. Such a system would need a teaching framework that spans the time from beginning to accomplished teaching.

One such framework is that developed by Charlotte Danielson, who worked at the Educational Testing Service on both the PRAXIS III and national board standards and assessments. Her framework comprises 22 different teaching components organized into four teaching domains, and thus provides a rich, comprehensive description of good teaching practice. In addition, the ETS has developed a set of instruments that districts can use to assess an individual teacher's practice to four different levels of performance.

The Danielson framework is rapidly being used across the country as the basis for both ongoing teacher professional development and teacher evaluation. In school districts such as Poway, Calif.; San Juan, Calif.; Newport News, Va.; and Duluth, Minn., teachers have "formative" evaluations to the 22 different components. The results are used to structure a professional-development program to help teachers advance their expertise to the next level of performance in all components and in each domain. Periodically, a "summative" evaluation is used to determine the overall level of an individual teacher's performance. In many cases, both the formative and summative evaluations include some type of peer review, so both teachers and administrators are involved in reviewing the professional practice of teachers. In all cases, reviews of individual teacher practice are made to the performance levels of an explicit framework for quality teaching.

This professional system is different from most human-resources systems. First, it includes an explicit set of standards for teaching practice. Second, it requires expertise of those reviewing teachers to those standards; reviewers must know good instruction and how to determine whether a teacher's practice meets a set of professional standards. Third, it must be accompanied by a systemic process of ongoing teacher professional development, geared to developing teachers to the highest level of practice. Fourth, such a system nicely bridges the external assessments for beginning and accomplished teachers with a set of internal assessments, and helps create a seamless web of ongoing knowledge and skill development and assessment throughout a teacher's career. Such systems radically transform and strengthen any district's human-resources system.

Quality assurance is needed throughout a teacher's career.

The additional step in this transformation of the human-resources system is to link some portion of pay to teachers' continued enhancement of their knowledge and skills. This could be done by providing large pay increases as a teacher moved up the four levels of practice within the Danielson framework. Such a system of pay for knowledge and skills also could include overall salary increases for earning national board certification, for earning a master's degree in an area for which there is board certification, or for becoming fully certified in a second content area. These approaches to teacher salary would retain the original notion of the single salary structure--to pay all individuals with the same qualifications the same salary--but shift the indicators of quality from years of experience and education units to direct measures of teaching practice.

Such revised human-resources systems in schools would make additional contributions to the quality assurances that now operate for just-beginning and experienced teachers. Quality assurance is needed throughout a teacher's career, and the elements needed to implement pay for knowledge and skills would provide this continuous quality assurance--high standards for increasingly sophisticated teaching, continuous professional development to those standards, periodic review of teachers to those standards, and higher pay when professional expertise advances.

Allan Odden is a professor in the school of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the co-director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 49

Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as Teacher Quality: The Role of New Forms of Compensation
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