How we measure and use effective teachers - making improvements or encouraging uniformity?2 Comments
Last week I received a letter from the DOE advertising two new positions within “transformation” high schools in the city. These positions offer increased pay for increased responsibilities at schools that are struggling and in need of improvement.
The letter announces positions of Master Teachers (30% pay increase) and Turnaround Teacher (15% raise) for people willing to work in designated “transformation” schools. Both jobs include extra time (100 and 30 hours, respectively) and a willingness to participate in professional development and collaboration. I applaud the DOE’s admission that certain schools need highly effective teachers and that those teachers deserve “combat pay,” if you will, to serve in tough situations. Offering incentives for teachers –in salary and in responsibility and status– to teach in these schools is great. The caveat is that the teacher only retains his position as long as “he/she maintains a rating of highly effective.” I know there is a new rating system, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t even know what the criteria are.
Searching the DOE website with keywords “highly effective” “teacher rating” and “teacher rating effective” yields no relevant results. The posting I received is the first result, followed by others, none of which relate to teacher rating. The UFT website provides a Q&A on the rating system. The system is a 100-point rubric with, “20 percentage points based on student growth on state exams where applicable, and another 20 percentage points based on locally selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (to be locally negotiated with the UFT).” (I’m not sure which standardized state tests would be used for me, a high school English teacher, since there is only one Regents exam administered – usually junior year.) Finally, 60% of the rating based on “multiple measures such as observations and peer review (locally negotiated with the union).” I don’t think these have been settled. I am curious to see what the final review looks like. I’ve always been frustrated that I’m “satisfactory” or not. That doesn’t address the range of teachers I’ve met or the effort I (and many of my colleagues) put into teaching on a daily basis.
I am, however, excited at the prospect of engaging effective (read: experienced, reflective, hard-working and well-respected) teachers to help students and struggling schools as a whole improve. In addition, the three-year commitment encourages longer-term growth of the neediest schools and may reduce the high turnaround rate found in many. However, I think the missing part of the equation is administrators and the rating system – a benchmark for what effective means. Even the best teachers with the interests of students at heart may be deterred, driven away, subverted or alienated by an inexperienced or dogmatic principal. Who are we endowing with the leadership for the “transformation” of these schools? Offering incentives to teachers is a great start, but not the whole solution to the puzzle. I applaud the union for agreeing to this plan and rating system, admitting that not all teachers are equal. I hope that both will lead to better instruction and schools. I do have an underlying fear that it will lead to standardization that alienates creative teachers and emphasize test scores that may not measure all that much. Let’s all lobby for a rating system that takes into account measures besides standardized tests and values different approaches to teaching.