Bold indicators – for the 20th century

The Center for American Progress and the Education Trust have published a policy brief focusing on the “essential elements” of teacher policy they believe must be present in the reauthorization of ESEA.

Problem is — they left out some of the essentials.

The Center for American Progress and the Education Trust have published a policy brief focusing on the “essential elements” of teacher policy they believe must be present in the reauthorization of ESEA.

Problem is — they left out some of the essentials.

Their policy prescriptions earnestly address the 20th century problems that so many policy wonks seem determined to fix, whether or not they still have much relevance. Here in the second decade of the 21st century, the CAP/Ed Trust proposed ESEA indicators often miss the mark. They ignore important research on the conditions that will allow teachers to teach effectively in the new millennium and thus assure that all students have access to expert teachers every day.

Here are a five examples of inadequate indicators.

CAP and Ed Trust call for mandates requiring states to collect and report on:

  1. The percentage of teachers beyond their first year of teaching. But they disregard the fact that high-needs schools require teachers with at least 4-5 years under their belt — the point at which classroom teachers develop a more finely tuned practice.
  2. The percentage of course sections taught by in-field secondary teachers. But they ignore that many administrators mindlessly shift elementary teachers from grade to grade without any consideration of their training and experience.
  3. The percentage of teachers prepared by a high-performing teacher preparation program. But they overlook the fact that ineffective teachers can graduate from “effective pathways” without ever having to demonstrate that they are competent.
  4. The percentage of teachers with fewer than ten absences. But they fail to account for poor working conditions (e.g., like inept administrators) that may be undermining teachers’ capacity to teach effectively.
  5. The percentage of teachers in the top quartile of teacher impact on student growth. But without recognizing the instability of the current statistical models, the narrow range of testing data available, and the need to use all data in more measured and non-mechanical ways.

Most important, none of their proposals call for states to collect evidence on the spread of effective teaching by expert practitioners, in and out of cyberspace. This is how schools improve.  If we are going to create the kind of teaching development system students deserve, we must have indicator systems that align with today’s school realities — indicators that will actually drive the changes we must have to create a high performing, results-oriented teaching profession across the board.

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