To the Editor:
I couldn’t agree more with Regis Anne Shields and Karen Hawley Miles in their Commentary “Want Effective Teachers?” (March 27, 2013) that recruiting and retaining effective teachers is of utmost importance to improving student achievement. It seems that a disproportionate amount of time, energy, and money is being put into recruitment (with teachers of all skill levels entering the profession), while our proven A-level teachers are quietly walking out the back door, having been given little or no reason to stay.
As we learned from the New Teacher Project’s “The Irreplaceables” study last year, it can take up to 11 hires to match the quality level of an effective teacher. Ms. Shields and Ms. Miles offered great examples of how to help retain excellent teachers, and I would add one more essential element: differentiated professional development.
Differentiated instruction is something practiced and lauded within classrooms across America. Yet, we don’t practice any type of differentiation when it comes to developing our best teachers. Part of a well-rounded value proposition for the most-effective teachers should include professional-learning programs designed specifically for those A-players, particularly if we are competing, as the authors suggest, with private-sector employers who routinely invest in their best performers in a differentiated way.
The irreplaceables need to learn from and grow with other irreplaceables. They must have a tailored program that marries pedagogy and practice to raise the ceiling on their classroom teaching, cultivate them as leaders among their peers, and reinvigorate them for the profession.
Only when we foster this kind of learning in our best contributors can we mimic the private sector and retain our irreplaceable teachers. This approach has the added benefit, unlike other elements of the value proposition, of being a one-time or intermittent cost, unlike compensation or health care.
And only when we retain our best teachers will we truly be able to improve the state of education.
President and Founder
National Academy of Advanced
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2013 edition of Education Week as Help ‘A-List’ Teachers With Differentiated PD