Sunday, November 1, 2009

"can track the growth in individual students’ achievement"

Nearly everyone can probably recall a teacher who lit their passion for poetry or who was able to help them connect all the dots in a seemingly incomprehensible algebra formula. We know that individual teachers can make a huge difference.

But public schools in America have been bent on ignoring the obvious: Almost nothing about the way we hire, evaluate, pay, or assign teachers to classrooms is designed to operate with that goal in mind. Most teachers receive only cursory performance evaluations, with virtually every teacher graded highly. We use a one-size-for-all salary structure, in which the only factors used in raises are teachers’ higher-education credentials and number of years in the system, neither of which is strongly linked to their effectiveness. And we often let seniority, rather than merit, drive decisions about where a teacher is placed. It is in many ways an industrial model that treats teachers as identical, interchangeable parts, when we know that they are not.
Now, increasingly challenging this status quo is a new wave of research showing that one can actually measure the difference a teacher makes. The studies use a statistical analysis of standardized test results to measure the “value added” that each teacher contributes each year, revealing stark differences in their ability to move a class forward. According to one recent value-added study of Los Angeles schools conducted by Harvard economist Tom Kane, having a good teacher for a single year translates to a 10-point-higher score on student achievement tests that use a standard 100-point scale. “That’s a big difference.” says Kane.
Read the full article in the Boston Globe here

This will likely be a topic of much discussion as the school year progresses. The new School Committee will be dealing with a tight budget and a teacher contract negotiation amongst other issues during the school year.

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