Today, Fordham’s Ohio team is releasing a
new report
looking at a pay-for-performance teacher compensation program
that is among the boldest in the country. Harrison School District 2, in
Colorado Springs, is in the second year of an ambitious plan that has significantly
overhauled teacher pay for this district of over 10,000 students. In this report,
Harrison Superintendent F. Mike Miles describes his district’s innovative
approach to compensation and provides a useful template for districts seeking
to recognize and reward successful teachers. Download the “Teacher
Compensation Based on Effectiveness: The Harrison (CO) Pay-for-Performance Plan

to learn more.

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about how reading
instruction would change when aligned to the Common Core. For the piece, I drew
on advice from David Coleman, the lead architect of the CCSS. At least one
element of the post (his push to end pre-reading activities in ELA classrooms)
set off a firestorm of debate among ELA teachers. What’s interesting, however,
is so much of the pushback against Coleman’s ideas centered not on the ideas
themselves, but rather on the fact that he does not have a background in

Take, for example, California
teacher of the year and education blogger, Alan Lawrence Sitomer who wrote:

[Coleman] has zero K-12 teaching
experience. Should we really be learning how to cook from a person who’s never
been in the kitchen?

Sitomer isn’t alone in this view. Here are a few other
samples from across the web:

Mr. Coleman is not an expert. He is simply someone who has been positioned and now is situated as an 'expert'. Itrequires significant arrogance to utter the bold statements Mr. Coleman makes.
I apologize for my brevity, but...



A teacher’s effectiveness has a tremendous impact on a child’s learning and academic trajectory. Yet knowing that, and being able to create teacher evaluation systems that successfully measure and document teacher effectiveness, are two very different things. In fact, for as long as anyone can remember, a public school teacher’s effectiveness and performance in Ohio classrooms-as in the rest of America- haven’t been measured much at all. These critical factors have had little impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district’s school, or how her professional development is crafted. This report, authored by Superintendent Mike Miles, takes a detailed look at the Harrison (CO) School District 2's Pay-for-Performance Plan. The Harrison Plan confronted the dual challenges of defining an effective teacher then identifying all the things that demonstrate her effectiveness. This how-to guide is meant to serve as a tool and model for Ohio’s school districts.


Pop quiz: Which school district is farthest ahead in designing and implementing a workable teacher evaluation system?  Washington, DC, with its IMPACT system? Denver, Colorado, with PRO-COMP? You’re getting warmer…

The correct answer, according to a brand-new paper from the Fordham Institute, is very likely the Harrison (CO) School District. Harrison is a high-poverty district of about 10,000 students near Colorado Springs. It has confronted the triple challenge of determining what elements are most valuable in a teacher’s overall performance (including but not limited to student growth on standardized tests), applying that determination to the district’s own teachers (all of them!), and then reshaping the teacher-salary system (with the teacher union’s assent!) to reward strong performance. Excellent teachers earn substantially more—and do so earlier in their careers—than their less effective peers.

Under the Harrison Plan, salaries for all teachers depend not on paper credentials or years spent in the classroom, but on what actually happens in their classrooms. “Step increases” based on longevity were eliminated, as were cost of living raises. And professional development is tailored by evaluations to help teacher improve. Harrison’s evaluation process is divided into two parts, with “performance” and “achievement” each representing 50 percent...

The big news last week was the release
of data
by the U.S. Department of Education showing that, as the press
release stated,

Minority students across America face harsher discipline,
have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught
by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to the U.S. Department
of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The report, part of the annual Civil Rights Data Collection
(CRDC) survey, included data from 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the
nation’s students and found, among other things, that black male students “are
far more likely to be suspended than their peers.” In fact, it reported, though
black students make up 18 percent of the students in the sample, they accounted
for 35 percent of the students suspended once and 39 percent of the students

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.  But just as my district pays little attention
to the academic environment that these...

People often talk about—even debate—whether teaching is
art or science. After reading magician Teller’s recent article “Teller
Reveals His Secrets
” in Smithsonian magazine, I’m now fully
convinced that great teaching is neither art nor science. It’s magic. And, as
we talk about and debate how best to select, evaluate, and reward great
teachers, we should consider taking some of Teller’s advice.

17/365: i could be your magician
Great teaching is neither art nor science. It's magic.
Photo by jin.thai.

It turns out that his most basic secret—the “magic” of
Penn & Teller’s work—doesn’t involve a clever slight of hand or carefully
developed prop. Instead, it takes hard work, or grit. In simple terms, Teller

You will be fooled by a trick if it
involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker)
would be willing to invest.

It underscores a simple but all-too-often overlooked life
lesson: The...

Save the podcast!

Mike and Janie make the case for keeping the Education Gadfly Show going with witty analysis of Common Core critics, student discipline follies, and the GOP’s education conundrum. Amber delves into teacher dissatisfaction and Chris asks “What’s up with that?” one last time.

Amber's Research Minute

 The MetLife survey of The American Teacher - Download the PDF

What's Up With That?

Teacher's health insurance policy includes free plastic surgery.

The Education Department fired up civil rights advocates this week
with the release of new data showing that schools subject black and Latino
students to discipline at higher rates than their white peers. "The sad
fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than
non-minorities, even within the same school,”
lamented Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The statistics are indeed troubling—black students made up 18 percent of students in ED’s sample, but were 35 percent of students suspended once, and 39
percent of students expelled—but so is Duncan’s spin, which was echoed even more starkly by sundry civil rights
groups and commentators. What we know: Minority students are disciplined more
often than non-minorities. This may be, as Duncan implies, because schools
punish them unfairly and undeservedly, perhaps the result of institutional
racism, inexperienced teachers who struggle with classroom management, or
countless other explanations. But that doesn’t mean
U.S. schools are run by racists. It may also be because black and Latino
students commit infractions more often than white students and are therefore
disciplined at a higher rate. It may be because teachers and principals...

For the better part of
three decades, MetLife has taken the pulse of American teachers. (We at Fordham
have offered summaries of  recent iterations of this work.) This latest check-up—which
diagnosed how the economic downturn has affected teachers and schools—yielded
some disturbing news. Since 2009, teacher satisfaction has dropped more than
fifteen percentage points; at 44 percent, it’s now at its lowest in two decades.
Though MetLife doesn’t look for causation, a few correlated (and
common-sensical) data points offer possible explanations: Low job satisfaction
is linked to feelings of job insecurity and experienced most commonly by
teachers in financially strapped schools. Moreover, teachers with low job
satisfaction are 21 percentage points less likely to feel that they are treated
as professionals by the community. (These trends persist regardless of
teachers’ demographic characteristics.) Worse still, teachers in schools that
have experienced budget cuts are less likely to be optimistic about improved
student achievement: Forty-six percent of those in schools experiencing cuts
don’t believe that student achievement will increase over the next five years,
compared to 35...

Kathleen Porter-Magee is half right,
maybe two thirds
Principals should indeed be responsible for evaluating the teachers in their
schools—and should have the authority to engage, retain, deploy, and
dismiss individual instructors (and other school staff) according to their best

That does not, however, mean "education reformers [should]
get out of the business of trying to improve the civil service rules of our
broken education bureaucracies...." Surely she doesn't want the system's
present HR rules and practices to endure intact. And surely they're not going
to be wiped away altogether. So they need to be reformulated. And one crucial
area of reform (among many) does involve teacher evaluations and the
appropriate use of student achievement information—test scores and more—within such evaluations.

No, teacher evaluations should not be based entirely on student
test scores. No, I don't think such evaluations should be made public (though
significant portions of them should be accessible to parents, especially the
parts linked to student achievement within teachers' classrooms). But chaos
will reign if there are no district or statewide practices, templates, model
programs, and suchlike...