October 4th, 2011

DISCUSS: How Do We Best Train Teachers?

How can we best train and retain teachers? We convened several experts to discuss. You may also be interested in our report on the current state of the American teacher, which is embedded above.

Patrick McGuinn, Drew University

The current situation is simply untenable

Patrick McGuinn is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Drew University; he also authored a book, No Child Left Behind and the Transformation of Federal Education Policy, 1965-2005.

Race to the Top initiated a long-overdue debate over how to improve teacher quality in the United States and highlighted a number of dysfunctional state practices around teacher training, placement, evaluation, tenure, and dismissal. Three widespread practices in particular are in need of major revision: teacher evaluation and tenure systems that do not distinguish effective teachers from ineffective ones; forced placement, where teachers are assigned to schools based on seniority rather than the match of teacher skills to school preferences and needs; and LIFO (last in first out), by which teacher lay-offs are based entirely on seniority rather than teacher effectiveness. In most states today, teachers are given tenure automatically after three years in the classroom, with little meaningful evaluation of their teaching effectiveness, and are extremely unlikely to be fired during their career no matter how ineffective they are. And because our least effective teachers are concentrated in our poorest schools, the cost of leaving them in the classroom is borne disproportionately by our most disadvantaged students.

This situation is simply untenable. States may reasonably differ in how they define and measure teaching effectiveness; in particular, they may place different emphasis on the importance of student scores on standardized achievement tests — but states must act to improve their teacher evaluation and tenure processes as part of a broader push to improve teacher quality and classroom instruction. Such improvements, while necessary, are not sufficient, as a broader reassessment of the way states recruit, train, mentor, compensate, and distribute teachers must be undertaken as well. Removing ineffective teachers without developing an expanded pool of effective teachers to replace them is unlikely to deliver desired improvements in education, particularly in high poverty schools which already face staffing challenges.

Julie Kowal and Sharon Kebschull Barrett, Public Impact

We could close the achievement gap in five years

Julie Kowal is a senior consultant and Sharon Kebschull Barrett is a research consultant with Public Impact.

American children deserve the one ingredient we know creates stellar learning results: excellent teachers — the 20 to 25 percent who produce about a year and a half of learning growth, on average. With them, the U.S. can close most of its achievement gaps in five years and catch up internationally. Without them — and even with good teachers who produce a full year of progress — children who start behind stay behind, and few students get ahead of their beginnings. This is the antithesis of the American Dream.

How can we get an excellent teacher for every student? Fortunately, we already have about 800,000 excellent teachers in classrooms. With policymakers’ help, schools can enable them to reach more students — now, within budget. In 3X for All, Public Impact proposes extending excellent teachers’ reach by rethinking job designs and technology, and paying excellent teachers more from existing per-pupil funding. See this Center for American Progress report (PDF) for examples. In our Seizing Opportunity at the Top: Policy Brief, we show what policymakers must do:

  • speedily improve the identification of excellent teachers;
  • clear the policy barriers that keep them from reaching more students; and
  • catalyze the will for schools to put excellent teachers in charge of every student’s learning.

These efforts, combined with better recruiting, retention, and dismissal policies, could put a top teacher in charge of nearly every classroom, reaching all students, not just a lucky few.

Barnett Berry, Center for Teaching Quality

Six ways to improve teacher prep programs

Barnett Berry is the founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality.

Recently, I collaborated with twelve expert teachers to write TEACHING 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students and Our Public Schools … Now and in the Future. We argue that universities’ teacher education programs — and highly-touted alternative certification programs like Teach for America — perpetuate out-of-date models of teaching and learning.

Teacher recruits need a very different kind of preparation to teach the diverse, tech-savvy learners of today and to ready those learners for the 21st-century global marketplace. To make this happen, we must move far beyond reform rhetoric — and we must do so quickly. Here are six big strategies that can help teacher preparation programs break the mold:

1. Ensure that recruits are being prepared for the roles that are most needed in area schools: School districts should develop “labor market” reports, allowing universities to carefully consider how many recruits should be prepared and for what.

2. Jettison traditional three-hour course credits in favor of performance-based pedagogical modules and assessments: This nimble, practical approach will help recruits to develop specific teaching skills and will better identify who is ready to teach, when, and under what conditions.

3. Split the time: Work with school districts to create hybrid roles for the most effective teachers to spend half their time teaching and half their time as lead teacher educators.

4. Understand the community: Require recruits to complete a substantial internship in a community-based organization, developing deep knowledge of how and where students and their families live.

5. Embrace online: Engage recruits in a virtual network of teachers, preparing them to teach effectively online and to collaborate virtually with teaching colleagues.

6. Emergent Tech: Work with school districts to expose recruits to live and digitally recorded “lesson studies,” in which teams of candidates learn to critique teaching and assess student learning using emerging technologies.

Jamie Davies O’Leary, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

“Know it when you see it?” Hardly.

Jamie Davies O’Leary is a senior Ohio policy analyst and associate editor for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

We can’t improve the quality of our nation’s educators or teacher training programs without a serious dialogue around what good teaching looks like, especially for the most at-risk students for whom excellent teaching is most vital. Further, policies must be structured in ways that tease out the attributes and skills of excellent educators and identify and develop these in less effective teachers.

In Ohio, we frequently hear that it’s just not possible to do this fairly. But experiences from other states and districts prove otherwise. We interviewed teachers evaluated under the District of Columbia’s IMPACT system — which measures hallmarks of strong instruction like checking for understanding, engaging students, and delivering content clearly. Overwhelmingly DC teachers believed that it correctly identified high and low performers as well as identified tangible ways they could improve.

We heard a similar theme when we interviewed Mike Miles, superintendent of Colorado’s Harrison School District 2. HSD2 measures teacher quality according to curricular alignment, classroom management, student engagement, and student growth, among many indicators. The district has seen more teachers achieving advanced levels of proficiency under this system, proving that instructional improvement is possible once we begin defining and measuring excellence.

The truism that good teaching can’t be quantified — that you “just know it when you see it” — is anything but true. These new systems may not be perfect, but they are worlds better than what we had previously. And they are a starting point if we want to finally get serious about improving teacher quality.

Allan Odden, University of Wisconsin

Before new decisions, we need new measures

Allan Odden is the Director, Strategic Management of Human Capital (SMHC) and the Co-Director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Wisconsin.

All new efforts to produce teacher effectiveness indicators, of which I am aware, include both measures of a teacher’s instructional practice and direct evidence of the teacher impact on student achievement. The instructional practice measures include multiple elements, such as descriptions of pedagogical content knowledge for the concepts being taught, lesson plans, observations or videos of actual classroom teaching, testing instruments, and teacher reflections. The student performance measures include a combination of gain measures on state accountability tests, in most cases over a 3-4 year time period, as well as other test data, which can include short cycle assessments. When combined, the multiple measures give a solid indication of how good — effective — a teacher is at teaching.

Most new evaluation systems ultimately will produce a summative score that the teacher is performing at a 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 level of practice. Some states plan to link these effectiveness levels to important decisions, such as requiring a level 2 performance to earn the professional license and requiring a higher level 3 performance to earn tenure. Districts also can use these effectiveness indicators to recognize outstanding teachers, to promote the most effective teachers into career categories, to focus intensive help for teachers in the lower effectiveness levels, and — if performance doesn’t improve — for dismissal. The measures also could be the foundation of new teacher salary schedules that would provide the largest pay hikes when a teacher’s effectiveness level improved.

As my recent book on Strategic Management of Human Capital in Education (Routledge, 2011) argued, when these effectiveness indicators come online, the education system can begin to really engage in strategic management of the most important individuals in the education system — teachers. Without such new measures, important decisions about teachers have little substantive basis, as this past decade’s futile search to identify highly qualified teachers showed.

Eugene Hickok, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education

We demand something from teachers that we can’t define

Eugene Hickok is a former U.S. Undersecretary of Education and Deputy Secretary of Education.

Teacher quality matters. Some argue it matters more than anything else when it comes to student and school performance. If that is the case, then America has done a pretty poor job of making sure America’s teachers are up to the job.

Teacher quality — whatever that means — became something of a national priority under President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative. But that law tied teacher quality to teacher licensure and argued that with appropriate licensure requirements teacher quality could be ensured. More recently, under President Obama, the issue has been teacher competence more than quality: Are teachers getting the job done? This makes some sense. Qualifications don’t matter much if students aren’t learning. But establishing valid indicators of teacher competence has proven to be controversial. The most prevalent formulation has been to tie competence to student test scores. It is an understandable but misguided idea. So many things go into student learning that it is simplistic to think that there is some kind of direct and calculable ratio between teaching and learning as measured by how well a student scores on a test.

Should student achievement matter? Absolutely! But student achievement is as robust and complex an idea as teacher quality. It can’t be reduced to a test score. Tests matter, surely. But many tests matter more. And many kinds of tests matter even more.

Teaching and learning is a product of the chemistry of the classroom — and it is a chemistry that varies with each teacher with each student in every classroom. It is folly to seek to reduce it some formula that might be replicated through public policy. We are left this difficult dilemma: We must demand from our teachers what we cannot define and what we cannot do without.

Jon Schnur, New Leaders for New Schools

Our greatest resource is our experience

Jon Schnur is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of New Leaders for New Schools.

What can we do to realize America’s great potential for ever-higher levels of educator and student excellence?

First, we can energize our students and educators to make big improvements toward rigorous, clear expectations and goals. This includes adopting and effectively implementing student standards and assessments to measure — and help educators, students and their families truly understand the specific elements and importance of — the knowledge and skills our students need to be on track for success in college and careers. It includes helping educators understand, observe, and get actionable feedback to improve performance toward rigorous standards for professional practice and ambitious goals for a healthy blend of student outcomes.

Second, we can ensure meaningful support and needed resources to help our students, educators, and schools succeed. This includes useful tools, professional development, extra time for student and educator learning, and sharing of promising practices. It also includes protecting funding for our schools, concentrating additional funding on effective efforts to improve education for our students in greatest need, and ending the requirements, mandates, and checklists that hamper productivity in our schools.

Third, we can define and enforce serious and fair consequences for success and failure against clearly defined expectations and criteria. That includes retaining successful educators with additional paid opportunities and responsibilities to help others succeed while continuing to serve their own students. It means setting high standards and longer time frames for teacher tenure — and providing tenure only to teachers who achieve those standards. And it means making it easier and faster to remove those teachers at any point in their career who are not serving students effectively.

Finally, the greatest resource in our American education system is the experience, insight and voice of our educators who have delivered strong results for our students and communities. We should honor them not only by thanking them, but also by including them at every level of policy discussion from the principal’s office to the school board, to the halls of legislatures to the Oval Office, from the publishing houses to the governors’ mansions.

Tricia Miller, National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality

Development and accountability can complement each other

Tricia Miller is the Deputy Director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality.

Federal and national attention has shifted from concern about whether a teacher is highly qualified — based on inputs such as certification and content knowledge — to concern about whether a teacher is effective, which is based on outcomes, such as teacher and student performance. Fueled by the Race to the Top competition and pushed by legislation specifying deadlines and requirements, states and districts are struggling to design and implement comprehensive teacher evaluation systems that are based on outcomes. This change is nothing short of a culture shift.

It is also an opportunity, however, to focus on creating evaluation systems designed to support and develop our teachers rather that just holding them accountable. Development and accountability do not have to be contradictory goals; they can complement one another.

A quality evaluation system can provide data for accountability. It can also provide data that can be used to identify areas of weakness for a teacher and target support and development to address those areas. The challenge is to ensure that the systems being created and implemented remain true to the ideal of support and development rather than devolving into a compliance orientation, wherein teacher evaluation is a task to be completed and checked off.

To best serve our students, we need to support and develop excellence in our teachers. Quality evaluation systems offer an opportunity to furnish this support. If we are to stay true to the American ideal of providing a quality education to all students, we must take full advantage of this opportunity.

Joe Aguerrebere, Former President/CEO of NBPTS

A first step is agreeing on a set of standards

Joe Aguerrebere is a former President and CEO of NBPTS (2003-2011), as well as a Deputy Director of the Ford Foundation from 1994 to 2003.

Ongoing national debates about how to get better teachers will never be resolved until there is professional and public consensus on a set of “common” standards for the practice of teaching. In today’s politicized educational world, the federal government, as well as every state and locality establishes their own regulatory framework influenced more by the politics of the day than by evidence of what works. As a result, the background and training of teachers across the country remains uneven leading to very uneven results for students.

Practitioners — and more importantly than government — need to step up and take responsibility for the preparation, development and assessment of teaching in the same way that other respected professions have done. This means coming together to arrive at a professional consensus about high quality teaching and the conditions that support effective learning outcomes for all students. As in other professions, professional national bodies can serve as vehicles for this consensus building. National accreditation can drive teacher training institutions toward a higher set of standards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards can drive individual teachers toward the development of good teaching practice across subjects and grade levels.

Once there is agreement on a set of “standards of teaching practice,” then teacher preparation institutions will have a consistent way of preparing and developing teachers. School systems will then have a better framework for the evaluation and professional support of teachers, leading to better outcomes for children.

Celine Coggins, Teach Plus

We need to think about how we’re building the profession

Celine Coggins is the CEO of Teach Plus and the author of A Decade of Urban School Reform.

More than a decade of research has confirmed what every parent knows: there are differences among teachers and they have huge consequences for student learning. Policymakers at the federal, state and local levels have addressed this problem by focusing on teacher recruitment and preparation. Attract the “best and brightest” to teaching and every kid will get a great education, so the logic goes. This strategy is too limited. Consider the following:

  • Almost half of new teachers leave urban schools within their first three years;
  • Virtually all teachers improve in their early years on the job, most reaching their peak effectiveness between years 3 and 5;
  • Students in schools serving a low-income population are more than 2.5 times more likely to have a novice teacher than their more affluent peers.

We have just reached a demographic tipping point among American teachers. For more than 40 years, Baby Boomers have constituted the majority of teachers. Today, 53% of teachers have fewer than 10 years experience. For this incoming group, staying or leaving is often a year-by-year decision. To ensure the strongest among them continue working with students for more than just a couple of years, we need career pathways that allow them to grow and be recognized for their success promoting student achievement. Improving teacher quality requires more than getting smart people to consider teaching: it requires building a profession that retains high performers and allows them to take on leadership roles while continuing to work with students.

Michelle Exstrom, NCSL

The time is right, and the context is set

Michelle Exstrom is the Education Program Principal for Teaching Quality and Effectiveness at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

State legislators are facing the most difficult state fiscal conditions of our time and are looking for strategies to wisely allocate — or reallocate — state resources to policies and programs that work. Over the past decade, strengthening teaching quality has been a priority for state legislators because they understand that great teachers and school leaders must be the centerpiece of a successful 21st century education system.

This priority continues even through current budget challenges, and state legislators are once again leading their states to reforms that were not likely just a few years ago. In just the past 18 months, legislators in at least 26 states have enacted legislation overhauling teacher evaluation systems, tying teacher evaluations — and ultimately their jobs — in large part to student achievement. They are revamping compensation and using state data systems to evaluate preparation programs. They have also removed tenure provisions, making it easier to remove ineffective teachers. And they have provided additional targeted training for those teachers identified as needing improvement.

They are eager to lead because they understand what’s at stake. They want to set rigorous expectations for preparation and performance and lead their state and the nation toward a high-quality education workforce that will put our nation’s student achievement back on top. The time is right and the context is set for states to move forward to enact meaningful policies — and remove barriers where needed — to achieve the vision of not just effective, but excellent teachers and principals for every student.

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Two remarkable books that have most impacted improving my teaching are: Results by Mike Schmoker amd The Highly Engaged Classroom by Robert Marzano. All educators should read these books before even thinking about joining the conversation…they are that inflencial. Principals, great for you, too.

Two questions.

o Can judgments really be as simple as ‘effective’ and ‘ineffective’, without regard to the student involved?

o As digital technology enters, it is likely to personalize learning; changing the pace at which the individual student moves. This is bound to affect the traditional notion of teaching: instruction; class; classroom; force the question: What’s ‘teaching’? Why is this missing from the discussion? Why does the discussion about ‘improving teachers and teaching’ continue to assume the technology of teacher-instruction? I am puzzled that when I ask this, people say: “Good question”. Something is not right here.

I suggest that everyone read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “What the Dog Saw,” specifically, the essay “Most Likely to Succeed.” Gladwell addressed teacher quality by wrapping it in two parallel challenges: identifying which star college quarterbacks will be high performers in the pros, and which Ivy League MBAs will be high performers in the financial services industry. I won’t dilute his ideas by trying to express them in a few sentences. I think the lure of learning about an approach to recruiting and developing teachers that has been successful in recruiting and developing starting NFL quarterbacks and multi-million-dollar year financial advisers (the good ones, who actually add value instead of merely run a shell game :-) should be enough incentive for any educator who has take the time to read the posts here.

Gladwell’s writing style and perspective are fun, and intellectually challenging. In contrast, the posts here make my eyes glaze over. They comprise the articulation of bold principles and a couple of ideas that have worked somewhere. Collectively, they leave me thinking that we are no closer to success than we were twenty years ago. We just have more people speaking more articulately and batting around ideas. Meanwhile, our schools keep slowly sinking lower and lower.

I see the stark void in the area of parental involvement (and it’s role in teacher’s perfromance/ ability to engage students.) Parents are a child’s first teacher…. leaving their role and responsibilty in the education process out of this discussion fails to address the needs of the “whole child”.

I find these “experts” incredibly out of touch. They’re talking about evaluation systems and pre-service training systems, even though there is no evidence that we can evaluate or pre-service train our way to better teachers.

We seem to be talking about “fixing” education without first deciding on a philosophy - without a “why.” If education is about math/reading test scores, OK, but let’s admit it. If it’s about something else, figure out what that is. How can you worry about teachers when you don’t even know what your goal is? How can you judge teachers if you don’t know what education is supposed to accomplish?

Teachers are at this point under a microscope like no other workers. We seem to believe that because they are public employees, we can treat them not as we would like to be treated, but as cogs in a machine. Are some teachers less than wonderful. Yes. But there will always be teachers who are less good. There will always be doctors, software engineers, trash collectors, retail clerks, etc. who are better at their job than others. That’s life. Get over it.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t help the people doing the teaching job to improve. Each has strengths and each has weaknesses, that won’t change. But we can help them work on *their* particular deficiencies in a cooperative, rather than top-down manner.

“For World Teachers’ Day — October 5, 2011 — we wanted to discuss two crucial and interrelated aspects of the profession: teacher training, and teacher quality. ”

The broad range of perspectives presented above are an excellent representation of the types of discussions that happen “above the fray” of real teaching and learning. It would be great to see some teachers’ comments about teaching quality. That said, the closest to applicable ideas for teaching and learning are from Barnett Berry(full disclosure I am a friend and collaborator with Barnett) and here is why, he listens to teachers when he thinks and writes about teaching quality. And this is my advice to everyone of the writers above, spend 65 hours in a classroom by next Spring and see if you can write the same blog posts.

@Ogden Hamilton check out this post about that particular piece by Gladwell, http://emergentlearner.com/?p=173

When we talk about improving teacher effectiveness I think it is important that we clarify that statement by saying, “with all students.” Otherwise it is a simple math problem. A teacher’s students score 88% pass rate on a state reading test vs. 100% of a teachers students make progress beyond struggling on grade level appropriate material.

Is it easy to agree with the statements above but practical applications of the ideas is much harder. That is when we should be asking teachers how can it be done?

It is easy to agree with the statements above but practical applications of the ideas are much harder. That is when we should be asking teachers how can it be done?

Andrew. I respectfully disagree. There is quite a bit of evidence that “we can evaluate or pre-service train our way to better teachers.: First take a look at the recent report from SRI International on peer review at


Look at research showing teacher education programs that produce higher student achievement gains (in their graduates’ first year of teaching) have the following characteristics:

(1) Extensive and well-supervised student teaching, with strong “congruence” between the training experience and the first-year teaching assignment;

(2) Opportunities “to engage in the actual practices involved in teaching” (e.g., lesson studies with colleagues);

(3) Opportunities to study and assess local school curricula; and

(4) A capstone experience in which action research or data-focused portfolios are used to make summative judgments about the quality of the teacher candidate.

Check it out at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1264576.

And then there is a plethora of practical evidence from other top-performing nations which routinely invest in teacher education (no such thing as Teach for Finland as a stop-gap).

Take a look at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/62/8/47506177.pdf

The problem is that we have few policies to enable the cultivation of a quality teacher development system. Marc Tucker has said it well in his paper:


We can do better. And we can begin to consider what kids need tomorrow and build better teacher education today.


I’m not sure quite how to respond. First, it’s hard to take the PAR paper too seriously. The numbers involved are teeny. Perhaps it is valuable work, but one shouldn’t draw conclusions from this information. Also, the peer review is essentially what I was referring to in the first place - personalized feedback on one’s teaching. That’s different than what most people would call “pre-service” training, I think.

The second paper you reference costs $5. If you want to post some relevant information, I’d be interested in taking a look.

It is incredibly difficult to draw any conclusions from other countries. One can’t assume that Finland does well on PISA because of teacher prep. One would need some sort of a reasonably controlled study to confirm this assertion. Still, this shouldn’t prevent us from trying things.

If the crux of your argument is that we need better student-teaching experiences, I would heartily agree. But, that’s what I would call “in-service” training, not “pre-service” training.

It would be interesting if someone did a study of results of teachers coming from different schools/states. It would be a lot of work, and it comes back to philosophy - how would you measure effectiveness? PISA? NAEP? Some broader, more inclusive measures?

I agree with Kimberly. A lack of parent involvement is resulting in kids being less prepared to participate and engage in the classroom–academically and socially. Schools/Administrators/Teachers are so overwhelmed by test scores, diverse abilities of students, evaluations that they seem to overlook, perhaps, the most influential tool they have–Parents.

The nonprofit Legacy Foundation researches and develops methods of improving education and the positive development of children. Its research led to a system that simultaneously 1. improves teacher effectiveness, 2. increases/improves student accountability, 3. increases parent engagement and involvement. It provides schools a research-based method of showing parents how to organize their family so their parenting contributes to improved learning in the classroom. It also visibly narrows the gap between parents and teachers—which is valuable enough on its own.

When teachers’ materials of the programs were offered for free to schools–in exchange for inviting parent participation–very few schools, (6% of 90 schools) accepted the offer. This system has proven to increase academic achievement by an average of 5% in the first year, yet schools appear to overlook parental involvement, or at the very least don’t know how to involve parents in the educational process. With all the finger pointing and tried-but-failed attempts to improve education, who can blame them? Teachers are so pressured to “simply create test scores. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you they feel constant pressure to “teach to the test.” This pressure prevents them from being innovative.

It is past time we get more innovative about education. Because we’ve attempted to improve education through more traditional means and they are not working. We simply have not adequately used this most influential resource—parent engagement.

What a great discussion on improving our teacher quality. A forum for mature discussion is a great step in the right direction.

Sorry to come to this so belatedly but as a full-time teacher there were other things to which I had to attend.

First, all students deserve high quality teaching. It should not make a difference whether they are in high-needs schools or full of gifted kids admitted by competitive exam as are 1/3 of the students at the school at which I teach.

Second, do not assume that identifying one model as effective teaching precludes a somewhat contrary model as also being effective. The better teachers I know have a wide and deep toolkit to which they can turn, and do not always teach in the same way, even to the same class. In a class of 33 students (too many, I might add) of tenth graders taking Advanced Placement US Government and Politics I can easily have a very wide range of learning styles: were I to always teach in the same way I would be ignoring those differences, favoring some while disfavoring others.

As far as preparing our future teachers: clearly we need people to know their content area, but they do not necessarily need to have majored in a subject matter, although they should be able to demonstrate sufficient subject matter by some means, and a major and even a good GPA are not necessarily guarantees. Even a 4.0 from an elite school is no guarantee that potential teachers can communicate the content they know to the particular students they will have: unfortunately some very good students seem to think that if everyone else is taught the way they themselves learned it is sufficient.

It is critical that learning how to teach include from the very beginning the process of reflective practice. That is not possible if as a beginning teacher one is also taking 6-9 hours of graduate credits, if one has so many students/classes that it is almost impossible to have time to breathe. We should even with our best candidates be inducted them more slowly, so that they have time to step back and reflect.

Why do you set up the room physically that way? Does it give you blind spot? Does it facilitate or interfere with student to student communication that can be part of the most exciting moments in the learning process?

One of the best parts of the National Board certification process is its insistence upon reflection - how is what one is doing helping the students? What is not a sufficient part of teacher training and preparation nor required in most schemes of the evaluation of teachers is demonstrating (a) knowledge of the individual students, or (b) showing how one uses reflective practice to ensure that one is reaching the students.

Let me emphasize several points.

1. There is no ONE way of good and effective teaching

2. We need to accept that someone who can be very effective with one set of students may not be as effective with another.

3. All students are entitled to good teaching. Jay Mathews of the Washington Post once said to me that he didn’t think kids at a school such as the famous H. B. Woodlawn program in Arlington VA where I live needed my skills as a teacher because they were so self-motivated. My response is many of them were desperately in need of teachers who understood them and knew how to appropriately use that self-motivation.

Finally, and then I have to leave this to head off to school (it is not quite 6:30 in the morning, and I will get home after 6:30 tonight) we do a very poor job of supporting teachers when we place too many demands on them so that they have insufficient time to reflect. No matter how long we have been teaching, no matter how many awards we may have won (I have my share), no matter how effective a lesson may have been in previous years, we need time to stop and reflect every single day - what worked today, what didn’t, and why? How do I, knowing my students and what they have been teaching me, modify tomorrow’s lesson to be more effective than today’s? How can I ensure that while I am in the midst of the lesson I am paying sufficient attention to the students to be able to change what I intended to meet the needs that are before me in the classroom?

All of this should start with a focus on the real, individual, unique students before me. If we lose that focus, then we are not serving the students as well as they deserve to be served.

Now off to school.

Barnett is saying a lot of what I hear other teachers saying. I do wish this forum had included some classroom teacher voices as well. We see the products of well intentioned policy decisions. What looks good on paper often fails when the mix of variables from school to school, group to group, district to district comes into play. For one I need much more effective ongoing learning opportunities and protected paid time to participate. Learning communities are cropping up all over cyberspace as teachers discover ways to help each other learn because what we are receiving from our districts is not only bad pedagogically but the content is often narrow or unfocused. If we are expected to develop well educated students by focusing on individual learning needs then perhaps we need to begin to look at teachers individually and build a program that allows them to receive just in time learning opportunities focused on their needs. Quality teachers are developed one experience at a time.
Shannon Cde Baca

Allen Oddon commented that “All new efforts to produce teacher effectiveness indicators, of which I am aware, include both measures of a teacher’s instructional practice and direct evidence of the teacher impact on student achievement.”

But how do we determine student achievement? Usually with standardized end of year tests. But during Education Week, Ann Curry asked students and they told her “We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don’t help us to learn what’s important to us.” So what is important to students? If we are serious about teacher quality, it makes sense to give some attention to their perspective if their performance is to be our measure of quality. Besides, students have the most intimate knowledge of teacher practice and the greatest stake in teacher quality. These young people had no difficulty articulating their ideas about teaching preparation and quality.

About teacher preparation:
“We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.”
“You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.”

About standards of highly effective teaching:
“Tell me something good that I’m doing so that I can keep growing in that.”
“Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.”

About evaluating teacher effectiveness:
“I can’t learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.”
“When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.”
“You need to love a student before you can teach a student.”

Eugene Hickok observed, “Teaching and learning is a product of the chemistry of the classroom — and it is a chemistry that varies with each teacher with each student in every classroom. It is folly to seek to reduce it some formula that might be replicated through public policy. We are left this difficult dilemma: We must demand from our teachers what we cannot define and what we cannot do without.”

Maybe the true dilemma is that the two biggest stakeholders, students and teachers, are missing from the conversation.

Only the best teachers should be given a student teacher. Student teachers should stay for one full school year as a student teacher + another full year as an apprentice in an urban or rural school that are struggling. The third year will be moving up with the former group of students. Intense reinforcements, encouragement and support should be available during the three year cycle. There should be a regimen of professional reading required of the best educational leaders such as Marzano. Too many new teachers are left on their own to sink or swim. Those veteran teachers should be encouraged to pitch in and lend the support and encouragement needed to get through the first three years. Perhaps a national effort to make this mentoring available wherever any teacher goes, new or veteran. We have isloated ourselves out of fear and anxiety, hiding behind doors hoping no one will learn that we are struggling with an overwhelming deluge of change, most of which is not feasible. Massage conversations of vision, beliefs and passion instead of tolerating complaining, rants and negative attitudes. We need to discover the joy in our work again. Joy comes from doing something with complete abandon of fear, worry, doubt and anxiety. That is the beast to feed, not the corporate get-rich-on-the-backs-of-kids mentality that has put us where we are today…seeking life support so we can barely be present with our students and parents. It’s not rocket science, but not everyone can do it well and with heart and joy and passion. Teach new teachers about the importance of building relationships, 24/7, with students and their families. So far, out of 30 years of teaching, I have yet to punch in on a time clock. When I stay until 6pm in my classroom working, I have to say to myself…either I am doing something wrong…or something right. It’s the latter. Get over the number of hours spent dedicated to teaching. No surprises here…we all knew it when we entered the market. It just can’t be done without putting in the hours. We have to move beyond all that rhetoric and lean into the fact that it requires more than that. So, new teachers…get real. Supervising teachers…keep it real. When you know a student teacher does NOT have what it will take, do them and all of education a favor and intervene like a true professional…guide them elsewhere. Veteran teachers…if it’s time to get out of the classroom and you know when that is, we all do…go. Quit wasting your time and that of your students. Not ALL teachers are good enough to teach. Administrators, do your jobs. It brings the rest of us down when we endure the misery of a teacher who is miserable in the job amd making things worse for the whole school. Select a solid teacher on campus to mentor those who are suffering from a lack of ability or desire. Communicate the truth that perhaps it’s best to move aside. Better to do that than allow their influence to be harmful and distructive to children…not to mention how it affects collaboration among other teachers. It is difficult to work with teachers who aren’t onboard and eager to improve, create, inspire and participate as a professional. We’ve tolerated it for too long. Some people just should not teach. Someone had to say it.

Andrew. Thanks for your response. A couple of thoughts - actually five:

1.Re Finland - I would encourage you to look at the research of Andres Schleicher of OECD, particularly this report found at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/32/50/46623978.pdf

2.I can assume “that Finland does well on PISA because of teacher prep” because I believe the Minister of Education of Finland, Henna Virkkunen. Check out this piece on the HP at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-snider/keys-to-finnish-education_b_836802.html - and the evidence she provides.

3.Years ago researchers with the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, then led brilliantly by Linda Darling-Hammond, found that one-third of the teachers assigned to peer review in the school districts of Cincinnati and Toledo, left teaching within 12 months. In Cincinnati, almost twice as many teacher dismissals resulted from peer reviews as from administrator evaluations. The new SRI International study supports the power of the peer review to make teaching the profession students deserve.

4.I am not sure what is wrong with supporting the right approaches to preparing teachers that cost more money –as long as those approaches lead to better outcomes for kids. One of my kids (now 29 years of age and very accomplished - ok I am his dad), was struggling in the 9th grade and the public high school was not responsive to his needs, and my wife and I – because we are lucky enough to be able to do so — took him out the public schools and sent him to a local private school. The private school spent at the time about 2.5 X more per kid than the public school he attended. He had much smaller class sizes. He had a more personalized learning plan. He learned to discipline his thinking. The school was led by a progressive headmaster — trained by Ted Sizer. Our kid REALLY benefited (and won’t brag about him here) – but don’t we want for all children what we want for our own?

5.No other profession considers an internship or residency as in-service education – because in those professions (medicine, engineering, architecture, etc.) you are still in training until you can show that you can practice independently. Do you know of the old adage from the medical profession, “See one, do one?” The internship is part of pre-service in order to know that a new recruit - watched by an expert — whether or not you are safe to practice by yourself. We must hold teaching to the same standard. Our 55 million public school students deserve for us to do so. Don’t you think? I do. So do most Americans – check out the latest polls by Gallup and MetLife on education and teaching.

While training teachers, do you try to build a learning community? I know that from the above reading all the articles emphasize how to best train teacher but is there a single way to do this as well?

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