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August 04, 2009
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This week The New Teacher Project (TNTP) unveiled its Cincinnati-focused report on human capital reform. The report's recommendations for Cincinnati Public Schools and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) are similar (predictably so) to client reports for other districts, like Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's because problems related to teacher quality are ubiquitous in American urban education.
Read the Cincinnati findings as well as the defensive reaction of the CFT, and you'll swear you could be reading a narrative of any city's human capital challenges: late hiring timelines prevent districts from snagging the best teacher candidates; evaluating teachers once every five years is meaningless; single step salary structures aren't the best way to recruit and reward excellence. It's chocked full of a lot of common sense. But common sense doesn't always translate into political action and policy reform.
Where TNTP's client cities part ways is in their willingness to truly make "teacher effectiveness" the helm of the human capital ship, and to measure this with student performance data. (There are other ways that districts/states can improve teacher quality but whether they place "effectiveness" at the core of their human capital philosophy says volumes.)??
In Ohio, the budget bill raised the bar for teacher tenure to seven years (the highest in the country among tenure-granting states) and made it easier to dismiss the worst teachers. These changes are positive, but ultimately don't overhaul the way that teachers are evaluated. Without meaningful evaluations linked to student performance, Ohioans won't know whether the needle on teacher quality is really moving.
At the TNTP release in Cincinnati, one audience member argued that Cincinnati's teacher evaluation system isn't all that bad and shouldn't be scrapped. In response, Dan Weisberg, vice president of policy at TNTP, offered facts straight from the horse's mouth. When CPS faculty were asked whether there are teachers in their schools who should be terminated for poor instructional performance but have not been, 34 percent of teachers and 57 percent of administrators surveyed said "yes." How high do those numbers have to go before Cincinnati (and the rest of Ohio) realizes that rigorous teacher evaluations are one of the single most vital elements of improving student learning?
"Are there continuing contract teachers in your school who you think should be terminated for poor instructional performance, but have not been????
Source:?? Human Capital Reform in Cincinnati Public Schools: Strengthening Teacher Effectiveness and Support, The New Teacher Project, Dec. 2009
-Jamie Davies O'Leary