This cover story on Time magazine has drawn a lot of attention in the last week, including plenty of fire from the national teachers union and many individual teachers. Defenders have included the current US Secretary of Education and many well-known education reformers.
Give it a read for yourself. My comments follow below.
- Despite the inflammatory, click-bait headline about a war on tenure, the California court ruling is really about teacher quality, not tenure per se.
- There is a growing body of research that the quality of teachers has a direct and measurable impact on both the cognitive and non-cognitive development of their students. I have read both of the research papers cited in the article (Kane; and Chetty, Friedman, Rockoff) and will post them on my blog in coming days.
- Testing is a tool that helps schools (and researchers) determine not only student performance, but the ‘value added’ of individual teachers. This is a useful, though imperfect, tool for assessing important dimensions of teacher quality.
- Our system for paying teachers is based on longevity (years of experience) and educational attainment (bachelors, masters, masters+, phd). Once a teacher accumulates 3-5 years of experience, neither factor tells us much about teacher quality.
- Should the ruling in California survive the appeals process, school districts would need to focus more on removing ineffective teachers. The seems to be especially needed in large urban school districts.
Relevance for Unionville Chadds Ford School District:
- At UCFSD, I have seen the Administration address teacher performance issues promptly. I don’t think we have many -if any- ‘problem teachers’ like those cited in the article. Instead, I think our challenge is raising teacher quality across the board — helping each educator grow and improve.
- At UCFSD, I would love to recognize and financially reward our teachers as they improve their skills and ‘value added’. Unfortunately, our collective bargaining agreement with the PSEA does not allow us to pay teachers based on the quality of their teaching. The PSEA strongly prefers the current pay structure, where longevity and years of post-secondary education are the only factors that impact teacher pay.