Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Before we shuffle the staff

Before we shuffle the teaching staffs in preparation for the new school year we should take a look at this 7 page March 2007 report from the Tn Department of Education called "Tennessee's Most Effective Teachers Are they assigned to the schools that need them most?" The answer is no.

"These comparisons find that students in Tennessee's high poverty/high minority schools have less access to the state's most effective teachers and more access to the state's least effective teachers. They suggest that while many of the beginning teachers in high poverty/high minority schools are among the state's most effective, many of them do not stay in these schools or lose their effectiveness over time.

The analyses also validate that Tennessee's efforts to ensure an equitable distribution of teachers to low-income children and minority children must be focused on teacher effectiveness as well as teacher qualifications such as experience and education. "
That last part needs highlighting:
"equitable distribution...must be focused on teacher effectiveness as well as teacher qualifications."
The public school system defaults to pay based on qualifications (parchment and time = pay rate) despite the fact that what parents and taxpayers want is effective teachers. And, I dare say again, they're willing to pay for them. If the union would allow the public to see those TVAAS ratings for teachers we'd know who was effective. I'd love to see outside each and every classroom the teacher's qualifications and effectiveness listed for all to see. Consider it a form of informed consent that ought to be the right of every parent leaving their child in the care of strangers.

Hat tip: Eduwonk


Nashteach said...

One of the problems is that higher poverty schools tend to have newer teachers and they don't stay as long; higher poverty schools have huge turnover. Also, if a school does have a younger/newer teaching staff, it means they are costing the state/system less since they are lower on the salary scale. We need to address that inequity. What needs to be done is for schools with these cheaper, newer teachers to receive some sort of equity, because it means the students aren't receiving the same staffing money per capita (although there's federal money that low poverty schools don't get but it's rarely for regular ed staff- it's earmarked for specific things).

But what should be done is that these schools should either receive extra teachers to lower class size and make the work load a little easier on the novice teacher, or these schools should be provided experienced teacher mentors to help the new teachers become better.

MNEA did a poll (not an election) of members about one to two years ago. One question asked about providing an incentive for experienced teachers to work at At Risk schools. Seventy percent of respondents agreed it was a good idea. Now, I feel certain if you tie the bonus only to test scores, the number will fall. But the decision to accept a teacher who applies for the transfer and bonus would still be up to the administrator, who could ask to see the TVAAS scores.

But my opinion, and I'd love to see a poll on this, is that it isn't the pay that causes the high turnover in difficult schools- it's the conditions. Rather than offering incentive money, the system should use these funds to address the conditions- including class sizes. That benefits both the teacher and her students; a bonus only indirectly benefits the students, and then again, maybe not even.

Quite frankly, I wouldn't transfer for the money, but assurance on class size and true discipline support from an instruction-centered principal, then you might get me thinking.

Eric Holcombe said...

"Meanwhile, the “most effective” teachers in high poverty/high minority
schools are even more effective than the “most effective” teachers in low poverty/low minority schools."

I think Tom's 'conditions' problem is more complex than can be labeled by race, dress, income level, teacher acumen - but this quoted statement tells me that the teacher long-in-tooth doesn't appear to have the edge their pay scale suggests. The new teacher on 'probation' has something to prove as well to stay on the state gravy train. The effective teachers appear to gravitate to the 'wealthier' systems after 10 years. Of course, this would assume all teachers began equally with similar degree requirements, training, classroom experiences etc.

If race matters so much for the students, why isn't it considered for the teachers? If adults of various pigment levels can perform the same, why can't we expect their children to?

I find the "effective" rating to be somewhat misleading. It is okay for a relative comparison of teachers, but to say you are effective because you are one standard deviation above state average?

That's right up there with scoring a 50 on a Gateway exam. It's higher than "passing" I guess.

It would also be interesting to know which grade levels the math scores came from - as the scores fall the older the students get no matter what their color or income. It shouldn't matter because of how the data is used, but still would be interesting.