To the Editor:
Your article “Transferring Top Teachers Has Benefits,” (Nov. 13, 2013) represents a conundrum for a promising strategy for school reform.
The article, reporting the results of a study, notes that “the transfer of top elementary teachers to low-achieving schools can help boost students’ performance, but there’s a catch: getting them to agree to move.” Although these teachers were found to have a higher impact on student achievement, it was difficult to attract a pool of these highly effective teachers despite the substantial bonuses offered in the study.
So if the incentives of higher pay and increased impact do not attract the teachers we sorely need, what can districts do to attract more highly effective teachers to the students who need them most?
We must ensure that there is a highly effective principal at the helm of these schools, capable of strong instructional leadership.
Recent research has shown that leadership actions of highly effective principals can address the challenges raised in the article: Effective principals not only recruit and retain effective teachers, they also improve the effectiveness of the teachers they have through consistently providing constructive feedback to continuously improve instruction for all teachers.
A 2012 study by TNTP (The New Teacher Project) on “irreplaceable” teachers in Washington found that keeping top teachers requires strong school leadership and school cultures that support effective teaching. Principals have to be able to shape a unified vision of high expectations for all students and chart a clear path that involves the collective wisdom and effort of all teachers to achieve this outcome.
Sarah Almy, the director of teacher quality for the Education Trust, is quoted in the article: “We hear that even if teachers have what it takes and they’re motivated [to transfer], they don’t want to be there all by themselves banging their head against the wall.”
The key to eliminating this futile, frustrating experience of finding and keeping good teachers is having in each school a leader capable of creating a whole-school culture where high expectations for teaching and learning are a priority.
Vice President of Programs
School Leaders Network
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 2014 edition of Education Week as Great School Leaders Attract Top Teachers