Race-ing to Teacher Quality

Last week, Eduflack opined over at Education Week on the need to differentiate between incentivizing good teachers and incentivizing good teaching.  Essentially, we need to make sure that any incentives are not just given as a thank you to teachers, but are used to identify, catalog, and share the best practices that have made their teaching so effective.  The full piece can be found here.

In response, there was an interesting comment from Stephanie Hirsh, the executive director of the National Staff Development Council.  Hirsh wrote: “I suggest distinguishing between, individual, team, and school incentives, with a focus on the strategies that have the greatest impact on student learning and whole school success.  Let’s incentivize teachers from contributing to collaborative initiatives that lead to improvement both within and outside their classrooms: participating in school improvement decision making and processes; mentoring their less experienced colleagues; acquiring knowledge and skills that prepare them to be learning team facilitators and then serving in this position; and acquiring knowledge and skills that prepare to serve as instructional coaches and then serving the school in that role.”
These are interesting concepts, particularly as the latest State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) education guidance continues to focus on the current federal definition of a highly qualified teacher, setting aside (for now) the opportunity to more accurately define what an effective teacher is and what high-quality teacher professional development may be (and more importantly what data points are needed to prove all of the above).  While we’d like to believe that plans are in the works to revisit HQT and the federal definition of effective teaching in the future, namely in ESEA reauthorization, it was clearly a missed opportunity to move the ball forward now.
But the ideas of how to best define effective teachers is not something everyone is waiting on.  Yesterday, Education Trust and the New Teacher Project released two new reports on how to increase teacher effectiveness efforts, particularly in state RttT applications.  EdTrust’s Fighting for Quality and Equity, Too and TNTP’s How Bold is “Bold”? provide some interesting food for thought on how to measure teacher effectiveness, as well as how to train, recruit, and retain those teachers that measure up against the rubric.
The EdTrust report, in particular, offers nine steps for states to consider as they pursue the Holy Grail of teacher effectiveness under expected RttT funds, including:
* Produce better information on teacher effectiveness
* Require clear teacher reports on teacher quality and equity
* Place information on teacher effectiveness in the hands of those who need it
* Require teacher evaluations to focus on effectiveness
* Write explicit policies that expect equitable access to effective teachers
* Eliminate state policies that sustain the status quo in local districts
* Produce incentives for effective teachers to work in high-needs schools
* Make certain that high-poverty districts and schools have what they need to attract and retain effective teachers
* Pump up the supply of talented teachers
Of course, the four-billion-dollar question is what, exactly, will states be asked to do with their Race applications?  Current chattering says that the final RttT RFP will be released by the U.S. Department of Education tomorrow.  When it comes out, there will be a robust discussion of what the final means for the ultimate awards.  If the RFP remains largely unchanged from the draft shared this summer, then we are back to the thinking that seven to 10 states are slated to win Race grants, putting more resources and higher expectations on those states.  If the RFP is significantly changed, as many believe it will be, then we are likely looking at a weaker RFP that will be targeted 30-35 grant winners, spreading the wealth around but limiting the federal resources going to a great number of priorities.
Assuming the latter for a second, will any state have the federal Race funds to actually adopt what EdTrust is calling for?  Let’s say 30 states win.  The average grant is $145 million.  Divide that by the expected four-year RttT period, and the average state gets $36.3 million a year.  Half of that goes to the LEAs for turnaround schools and teacher quality, meaning that approximately $9 million a year would be available to school districts in a Race state to invest in meaningful teacher quality efforts.  Is that anywhere close to enough to address the nine pillars that EdTrust offers up?  Is that enough to address just three?  And if it isn’t enough to deal with teacher quality in a meaningful, systemic, and long-term way, is it worth throwing the money at the issue in the first place?

329 thoughts on “Race-ing to Teacher Quality

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