Yesterday representatives from The New Teacher Project (TNTP), alongside Cincinnati superintendent Mary Ronan and president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT), Julie Sellers, gathered for the release of TNTP’s Cincinnati-focused teacher effectiveness report. TNTP researchers presented recommendations from their 87-page study of the district’s human capital approach, including controversial suggestions to sack the current teacher evaluation system, base teacher evaluations largely on student academic performance, install a differentiated compensation system, and empower principals with more authority over teacher hiring and evaluations.

The report’s laser focus on defining “teacher effectiveness” by linking it to student achievement data mirrors comments from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and embodies the federal Race to the Top priorities (in fact, the TNTP report couldn’t be more timely – “effective teaching and leadership” is the single most important category in the RttT application).

Unfortunately, many of TNTP’s recommendations with the most promise to ameliorate Cincinnati’s perennially low academic performance will not be well-received by the CFT. Despite the collaborative nature of the report (which relied heavily on teacher and principal surveys for the findings) and the message delivered by Dan Weisberg, TNTP’s vice president of policy, that “teachers are not the problem; teachers are the solution,” the teachers union appears to be taking a defensive stance. 

The Enquirer reports this morning that the CFT is reticent to scrap the current teacher evaluation system, is concerned with the fairness of individual performance bonuses, and is uncomfortable with shifting more authority to principals (this undermines nearly half of the report’s recommendations). They no doubt also oppose doing away with “last hired/first fired” as well. While the CFT appears to be open to some tweaks, like adopting a “mutual consent” transfer system that would end forced teacher hiring/transfers, this only tinkers with the current system and would be insufficient to truly improve teacher effectiveness within CPS.

The conversation started yesterday in Cincinnati is critical not only for the Queen City, but for districts across the state that face similar challenges and constraints when it comes to modernizing how teachers are rewarded, advanced professionally and held accountable for their performance.

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