In the effort to rout ineffective teachers out of the system, teachers’ voices—even voices of some very good teachers—have been shouted down. Yet, what makes an effective teacher (one who can positively affect a student’s academic career) has neither been well-studied, described nor agreed upon, according to a number of studies cited in a new report by the Accomplished California Teachers, or ACT*.
More importantly, how do the good teachers become the best over the tenure of their careers?
At 41 pages, ACT’s report, supported by the National Board Resource Center at the Stanford School of Education and influenced by Linda Darling Hammond, is worth reading for anyone interested in improving teaching and learning in our schools. As the authors state in their introduction:
“We chose to begin here because we believe that without a common understanding of what constitutes teaching quality and how teachers should be evaluated, any further conversation about improving teaching will be inconsequential.”
The report makes concrete recommendations, based on “research, analysis of existing policies, input from academic experts, and our own experiences as promoters of quality teaching” in order to transform teacher evaluation into a tool that could “advance the quality of teaching across California.” (p iii)
Teachers and administrators will recognize many of the challenges and pitfalls identified in the current evaluation system under “what’s wrong with the current system?” including the lack of training and resources for administrators to support a cohesive and useful evaluation system, a focus on compliance rather than improvement, and a perfunctory approach that does nothing to improve instruction. (p 5)
One part of the solution proposed by ACT—a solution that could be put into place now by Professional Learning Communities— is to use the kind of formative assessments that work for students in the teacher evaluation process. As they say in the report:
“Formative assessment in the hands of a skillful teacher not only helps the teacher keep track of student learning as it unfolds, but it also ensures that students are aware of the goals for their learning, know what constitutes evidence of mastery, and what they need to do to move forward. Unfortunately, few of us experience that kind of sophistication in assessments of our teaching. Teaching assessments are still top-down, superficial, and lacking meaningful feedback and recommendations for growth to the teacher. It is sadly ironic that the kinds of successful teaching practices that both teachers and researchers have identified as effective in promoting student learning are not similarly used to promote teacher learning.” (p 7)
Contrasting case studies (pages 34-35) offer helpful views of evaluation based on compliance versus evaluation processes that promote better teaching.
*Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) is a new teacher leadership network for the state of California funded by the Stuart Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation, and housed under the umbrella of the School of Education at Stanford University.
Visit ACTs blog.
Anthony Cody is a founding member of ACT and an EdWeek blogger. Read Anthony Cody’s post about the report.