Recently passed teacher effectiveness legislation--in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and a number of other states--takes steps to link personnel decisions to teacher effectiveness, rather than seniority or other characteristics. That’s often a positive step to put kids’ interests first, but for the most part, these policies are still focusing on personnel decisions from the perspective of how they affect adults, rather than kids.
So, for example, several states allow for the dismissal of teachers who are rated “ineffective” for two years in a row. But only one state--Indiana--takes steps to prevent an individual child from being assigned to ineffective teachers for two years in a row. This is a policy that more states should seek to replicate. Because learning is cumulative, research indicates that the cumulative effects of having multiple ineffective teachers in a row--particularly in the critical early grades, when children must acquire foundational skills and knowledge--can have devastating impacts. It is inevitable that some children will be taught by lousy or ineffective teachers at some point in their schooling--but we can do much more to make sure that those same children do not have similarly weak teachers the following year.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook 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.