I’ve just landed in Amsterdam and am making my way downtown for the third annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession. This year’s summit will focus on who sets standards for the profession—as well as how teachers are evaluated and the extent to which the process leads to educators’ self-efficacy.

I don’t want to miss a beat at this small invitation-only conference, where I’m certain the ministers and union chiefs of many of the 20 nations represented will put some U.S. policymakers on edge. Marc Tucker noted of late that when it comes to teacher quality, nations (and school systems) generally take one of three approaches:

  1. Fire bad teachers;
  2. Recruit better ones; or
  3. Invest in the teachers already in place.

For the most part, our nation’s recent teaching quality policies have focused on numbers one and two at the expense of number three.

Granted, there are some powerful examples of how to do evaluation right in the United States. Hillsborough County (Florida), for example, has seen progress under terrific leadership from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia and union leader Jean Clements.

But even in locales where thoughtful leaders transcend the typical politics of teacher accountability, our evaluation systems are light years behind other nations. As I read through the background report, prepared by OECD for the summit, several powerful teacher evaluation strategies stood out:

  • Denmark teachers are evaluated in teams;
  • The Dutch expect practitioners, as part of their evaluation process, to visit other schools;
  • The Finnish system requires teachers to assess themselves and develop individual development plans based on national standards and local goals; and
  • Singapore focuses on “current estimated potential” of teachers.

The bottom line is that top-performing nations use their evaluation systems to help all teachers get better. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing more in the week ahead. In the meantime, you can keep up with the summit in real time by following the hashtag #ISTP13 on Twitter.

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