Excellent Teachers for Every Child  

January 16, 2014
Historically, schools that serve the most disadvantaged children have tended to have the least qualified teachers. This is of concern because most research shows that the most important school-based factor affecting student learning abilities is the teacher. The higher performing teachers raised student achievement by 4 to 10 percentile points, according to recent research on a Talent Transfer Initiative conducted by the federal government.

One of the policies the US Department of Education (USDE) proposed was to address the disparity of access to a “highly qualified teacher” in the implementation of new teacher evaluation systems by the 2015-16 school year. The USDE has granted two extensions allowing states more time, but more than a dozen states have now asked for “waivers of the waivers”. States want waivers from federal laws to “use teacher-evaluation data to ensure that poor and minority students are not taught by ineffective teachers at a higher rate than their white and better-off peers.”

The Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI) looked at whether giving high-performing teachers a financial incentive of $20,000 over two years would encourage teachers to transfer to low-performing schools and if this transfer would affect achievement. It was very difficult to recruit teachers to go to these schools. Some possible reasons according to education journalist Dana Goldstein were the poor working conditions in those schools, high turnover of administration, and larger class sizes.

Following the TTI study, a new guide has been published by the Opportunity to Learn campaign: Excellent Teachers For Each And Every Child: A Guide for State Policy. The guide suggests how to address the many factors that influence teaching quality and more equitable distribution of high-quality teachers to the neediest schools. It says that states should consider factors such as “the expertise of teachers, learning conditions, school environment, instructional resources, and supports (academic, social, emotional, and health)”. The recommendations contrast with the current policies that support crude rankings of teachers, harsh sanctions, and never-ending restrictions with waivers of the restrictions.
The guide recommends the adoption of policies to:
  1. Recruit diverse and talented individuals into     the teacher profession
  2. Prepare teachers to be ready for the classroom and for leadership
  3. Support ongoing professional learning and development
  4. Develop evaluation systems that improve student learning
  5. Address teaching and learning conditions
  6. Fund a sustainable teaching force
  7. Promote comprehensive teaching quality strategies

Interestingly the recommendations drew from research on teacher effectiveness and practices of high-achieving nations like Finland and Singapore, two countries that perform at the top of PISA rankings.

by Rosemary Cervantes, English Language Coordinator