Genuine Progress, Greater Challenges
A Decade Of Teacher Effectiveness Reforms

This report by Bellwether Education Partners examines how the teacher quality movement took hold and propelled policy changes in dozens of states. Here are excerpts from its executive summary:

The perception of teachers as widgets began to change in the late 1990s and early aughts as new organizations launched and policymakers and philanthropists began to concentrate on teacher effectiveness. Under the Obama administration, the pace of change quickened. …

Still, much remains unchanged. … To address these shortcomings and build on the momentum of the past 10 years, policymakers 
should consider five key issues:

• You can’t people-proof systems in education. Current evaluation systems are a substantial improvement over previous policies. But are these the tools that will create a genuinely professional ethos for teachers? Evaluation systems should complement metric-driven systems with true managerial discretion. Districts should train and support managers and hold them accountable for their professional decisions.

• Professionalize professional development. The existing body of literature on professional development is extremely limited, but teachers must be supported in their work. Policymakers should identify and promote professional development that improves educator practice and student achievement. Evaluations should align with professional development for the purposes of growth and improvement, not just performance management.

• Open and expand teacher preparation. Teacher preparation is a difficult sector to reform, but doing so is key to improving teacher quality overall. Policymakers should increase rigor and quality in teacher preparation but also end protectionism of traditional preparation programs and open preparation to greater competition.

• Address productivity. Current education policy is often additive rather than productivity focused. Policymakers should find ways to promote productivity by better deploying the existing pool of teacher talent or improving how technology is used in schools and classrooms. 

• Address the politics. Education is inherently political and the American debate about public education is special interest dominated. School improvement requires a robust political strategy to support its educational strategy.