Posted October 28, 2008, 9:00am
Good morning and welcome. The discussion we are about to embark upon is predicated upon the assumption that a new deal for teachers is necessary. But before we get into what it would look like, I'd like to ask: Who's really interested in a new deal? Where's the energy for transforming schools going to come from? Are teacher unions (local or national) going to be the driving force? Are new teachers going to be enthusiastic advocates? Will district administrators or state legislators spearhead change? Are there particular areas/school districts that are much more ready than others for a new deal, either because of local ideology or need (urban-high poverty)?
Or is this a great idea without a real constituency?
Posted October 28, 2008, 10:03am
Great questions, Steve. Let’s assume that the “new deal” for teachers is something along the lines of higher pay (particularly early in teachers’ careers) in return for less job security and more modest retirement benefits. While new teachers already support this approach (and not surprisingly, since it’s in their own interests, at least in the short-term), harsh fiscal realities will be the true impetus for these reforms. With the baby boomers retiring en masse, putting pressure on Social Security and Medicare, competition for public funds is going to be fierce. The era of ever-increasing school budgets will come to an end. And it will become clear to policymakers that teachers’ retirement benefits (including healthcare benefits) are unsustainable. This will force the conversation about a new way to compensate teachers, one that relies more on “front-loading” teacher pay and moving to a 401(k) style retirement system. (The Tough Choices or Tough Times report did a good job spelling out this new approach.) None of these discussions will be happy, and the unions will fight these developments tooth and nail. But taxpayers and parents won’t stand for a system in which a huge proportion of school spending goes to support teachers who retired years ago, which is the trajectory we’re currently on. (Read more about this looming inter-generational battle on Fordham’s flypaper blog.)
Posted October 28, 2008, 10:53am
Good morning, Steve, and good morning everyone. Throughout history, the teaching profession and teacher unions have become accustomed to changing, adapting and evolving. Teachers are constantly striving to improve outcomes for kids, and they are ready, willing and able to try creative new approaches and take risks so long as they are properly supported and have a professional voice. When it comes to recruiting and retaining a quality teaching workforce and building strong, stable schools, there must first be an understanding of that basic premise.
I think any "new deal" must begin with local, state and district officials believing in and adopting policies that are built on collaboration and cooperation. Districts must commit to providing teachers not only with professional and developmental training to learn new skills, but also professional respect and security so that they can change and take risks without being punished for it. Enhancing teacher quality and improving academic outcomes are goals we all share, but only by working together can we achieve great things.
One of my greatest fears right now is that the economic downturn our country is facing will result in a disinvestment in education and human capital, which would have a profoundly negative affect on our schools.
Posted October 28, 2008, 11:01am
I agree with Michael [Petrilli], this is a key question. Without a “new deal” for teachers, the current problems in education are going to get worse and worse. But as the question notes, there won’t be a new deal without a constituency. I am worried about the constituency issue. As the children of baby boomers finish school, baby boomers (who still represent the largest single constituency in the US) will turn from education to other issues. I am much more optimistic than Michael about teachers—and teacher unions—being an important constituency. Teacher unions, through organizations like TURN (Teacher Union Reform Network) have been among the leaders in pressing for changes that reward teachers in return for making teachers more accountable. (Rochester, NY, for example, allows a substantial salary increase for the best teachers in return for their giving up seniority rights and going to the schools where they are needed most.) Certainly not all unions or all union leaders agree, but many of the most articulate do. Whether there is a national constituency for a change in health care policy is yet to be seen, but out-of-control health care costs are a huge issue for schools and school districts just as they are for American industry, and here the constituency for change is much broader. Finally, of course, the current economic crisis may lead more and more people to think longer term and longer term thinking is going to mean thinking seriously about schools. And as the research clearly shows, to think about schools means to focus on teachers. Will all of this add up to a sufficient constituency? … It is too soon to tell.
Posted October 28, 2008, 11:21am
There's a bigger opportunity here than just more pay for more accountability. Teachers are crushed by bureaucracy, and, in many schools, have lost the authority to maintain order in part because of legal requirements.
Most of that bureaucracy is designed to protect against incompetence or unfairness. The rules and procedures, or most of them, wouldn't be needed if teachers and principals could be accountable after the fact. You don't need rules telling people how to do things if they can be dismissed for repeated failures.
That doesn't mean there aren't safeguards against unfair accountability—say, a fairness committee to review accountability.
But the opportunity here is to liberate teachers to be professional again. Today, teachers are organized like workers on an assembly line. It's incredibly demoralizing, as studies repeatedly find.
That's what I think a new deal should fix.
Posted October 28, 2008, 12:01pm
I certainly agree with the premise for this conversation—there has to be a new deal for teachers. In fact, I’ve been working for eight years on what this “Grand Education Bargain” (borrowing a line from Jonathan Alter’s July 12 Newsweek column) would look like. We’ve proposed this title for a book I am co-editing with my colleague Claire Robertson-Kraft (Harvard Education Press: spring 2009) that will lay out the details. We’ll discuss this in subsequent postings, but “investment with accountability” captures its broad outlines.
From where will support for change come is the right question. If Obama wins next week, he’ll use the nation’s bully pulpit to make the case. He was much more open to pay-for-performance concepts in the primaries than Hillary Clinton, and he will find considerable support among young teachers. The key will be identifying progressive union leaders willing to move their locals to embrace fundamental change. Given the greater challenges they face and their national leadership, we expect AFT locals to be more likely than NEA locals to participate in reform.
Posted October 28, 2008, 1:12pm
Steve, I wonder if we can really expect any response from teachers or others without their knowing what the 'new deal' would be. So let me start there—by suggesting there are two separate concepts moving in the national discussion about the future for teachers and teaching. And let me say at the start that both of them need to be tried. (Two rules: when you don't know for sure what will work, try a variety of things! And: always change a losing game!)
The 'old deal' is basically: We don't give you (teachers) professional autonomy and in return you don't give us accountability. This is lose/lose. The new deal—the one I'd suggest we talk more about—is the reverse of that. Albert Shanker used to say: "If you want to hold the teachers accountable, the teachers have to be able to run the school." If that deal is still on the table, let's take it. We are now looking at schools that are run by professional partnerships of teachers, in which the teachers accept collegially the responsibility for school and student success; and accept responsibility for making with integrity the decisions about finance, teacher quality, and student success. The other 'deal' most often advocated is the one Mike Petrilli mentions—the one prominently associated with Michelle Rhee; basically, some modification of the traditional management approach to securing performance from teachers.
Does this distinction work for y'all? It reflects what Richard Ingersoll so nicely describes in his book, Who Controls Teachers' Work?. Right now most of the discussion is within the 'management' theory, and assumes the boss/worker model. We need both theories operating.
Posted October 28, 2008, 2:16pm
I’d like to address Steve’s question about if a new deal is actually needed. While I think that yes, a new deal is necessary, it is important to talk about why and who we are trying to reach through a new deal. One serious concern is that not all students have access to a highly effective teacher. There are certainly talented, amazingly hardworking, and effective teachers in our public schools, but too many students in high poverty, high minority, and low performing schools have a far greater number of less qualified, ineffective teachers. The students in those schools are the ones that need a new deal, and it’s vital that we explore options for teachers—to improve working conditions, provide comprehensive induction programs, target comprehensive professional development, and promote career paths and teacher leadership.
Posted October 28, 2008, 3:28pm
This discussion is extremely interesting—and important for the country.
If there is to be a new deal for teachers, my hope is that the starting point will be a greater recognition that education is perhaps the most important investment this country makes, at all levels—local, state, and federal. A more focused emphasis on the return on those investments should, in my view, be part of the equation.
For example, the Committee for Economic Development has helped to focus greater attention to the ROI from early childhood investments. Working with Nobel laureate in economics James Heckman at the University of Chicago, we have tried to quantify precisely what those dollars return.
This new approach, analysis, and even language have been enormously important as business leaders and others become advocates for the additional targeted spending in a child's early years.
A new contract/deal has to be seen in the context of its importance for economic development and the education of future democratic citizens. It's not just about teachers and teaching but about the future strength of our economy and our democracy.
Posted October 28, 2008, 3:35pm
While I agree with most of what is being said, I also want to make sure that we keep a focus on teacher salaries. A recent Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation-sponsored study, Teaching as a Second Career (September 2008), found that fully 42% of all 24- to 60-year-olds in the U.S. who have a college degree would consider teaching but the vast majority would only do so if the starting salary was above $50,000 per year. When teacher salaries are dramatically lower than salaries in other professions, we send a message that teaching really does not matter much in this society—to say nothing of asking people to pursue careers in which they cannot enjoy a reasonable lifestyle. It will be impossible to address the important issues Bob Wise raises unless we show more financial respect for teachers.
Posted October 28, 2008, 4:57pm
How many of us think it's possible to move teacher salaries up to the “professional” level with the job and the career structured as it has traditionally been?
Peter Hutchinson, when superintendent in Minneapolis, used to note that a room with 30 kids contains about $420,000 (at the roughly $14,000-per-student level of Minneapolis today). Of that, the average teacher compensation is, what—$80,000 with benefits? What do you think would happen if a group of teachers—the math department, say—were capitated with the amount to be devoted to 'instruction' and allowed to keep what they did not need to spend? (We asked a group of math teachers this question some years ago. The answer was impressive. I can talk about that if anyone is interested.)
Posted October 28, 2008, 5:49pm
In connection to Mr. Wise’s comments, I am assuming there is no need for “transforming schools” and a “new deal for teachers” in upper income communities. That such a dichotomy of educational resources is allowed to exist is obviously reprehensible, but also demonstrates, in my opinion, that most Americans are primarily concerned with the education of their own children in their own communities. Under this current funding structure, how do we recruit and retain the highest quality educators to the poorer schools when double the salary and half the headache reside right down the road at a richer school or in a different profession? As such, how can educational leaders and the public in lower income communities grant autonomy to teachers that they do not trust are of the highest caliber? To reiterate Mr. Fraser’s comments, the profession of teaching should be considered prestigious, not a sacrifice. The problem is that we all already know this.
Posted October 28, 2008, 5:58pm
If we want to boost teacher salaries, we need to rethink our obsession with smaller class sizes. As my boss, Checker Finn, often notes, if we had invested our K-12 resources into higher pay instead of small classes over the past fifty years, the average teacher would now make $100,000 per year. Instead we opted for quantity over quality. We can’t afford to do it all, so we have to make choices, particularly with a difficult fiscal environment looming.
But raising salaries across the board isn’t likely to solve the problem either. As Mike Podgursky and Dale Ballou wrote back in 1997 in Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality, the United States boosted teacher salaries quite dramatically in the 1980s and saw teacher quality rise only marginally. That’s because we didn’t make much progress breaking down barriers to entry into the profession, so the best-qualified candidates still faced significant costs to becoming a teacher (such as paying colleges for the privilege of doing student teaching), and decided to tackle other careers. Boosting salaries will only make a difference if we boost them differentially—more for the highest-performing teachers, those in shortage subjects, those willing to teach in tough neighborhoods—and combine that with reforms to expedite entry to highly qualified candidates. In other words, we need to treat different teachers differently—anathema to the ethos of unions.
Posted October 28, 2008, 6:02pm
As today’s discussion draws to a close, thank you all for entertaining the environmental-constraints question facing the new deal, even as you could not avoid bringing into the discussions the principles of what a new deal would actually look like. The talk so far has touched upon the following constraints and opportunities for energizing a new deal: economic tough times, the retirement of baby boomers, reform-minded union leaders, a new President. What are the most promising signals of interest in the new deal that you see? What is the potential for mainstream union leadership on this issue? What is the potential for political leadership on this issue—local or national?
Posted October 28, 2008, 6:10pm
I've read the various posts with great interest. We all want more out of public education, and it would appear we can all agree that a 'new deal' could take many different forms and directions. To expand on my earlier post, I would hope that moving forward, the professionalization of the teaching agenda would take center stage. Initiatives that pay for additional responsibilities and additional skills (i.e. lead teacher programs, National Board certification, working in high needs schools, etc.) can and should be part of the discussion. Taking it a step further and to build on several earlier comments, why not consider redesigning schools into "community schools," with longer hours and more activities and services for children and their families? If we're thinking 'new deal', that's a big idea with a lot of possibilities.
Ultimately, however, I want to stress that everyone at the table must be open-minded and ready to listen. To use an example, we here at the UFT have partnered with Green Dot to create a truly remarkable charter school model where commitment to collaboration, fair pay and respect are central tenets. Progressive, forward-thinking solutions such as what we've put together with Green Dot work when teachers have a voice and are part of the dialogue. I think everyone should be thinking along those lines. I also want to point out that fair salaries, decent health benefits and a secure retirement are essential for building a teaching profession in which quality teachers stay. They are important incentives to attract and keep the 'best and the brightest' in education.
Posted October 28, 2008, 8:55pm
Americans are typically generous and practical people—but they also are not fools.
This fascinating discussion occurs against the backdrop of an economic mess in which too many poorly performing CEOs have made multiples of what we pay our teachers.
Too many excellent teachers remain underpaid; too many poor CEOs have been overpaid. At the heart of the problem is a misaligned values scale in our society—something which I believe several commenters had in mind when they addressed the importance of higher pay as an incentive along with enhanced professionalism.
Across-the-board raises or cuts (for teachers or CEOs) do not make sense. There has to be some differentiation as to quality and performance for both job groups.
I attended an excellent private school but had a really bad trigonometry teacher. He was a wonderful person, but he just couldn't teach. He was let go after the first year.
I remain convinced that Americans will gladly support higher teacher pay when a far better case has been made as to how these investments will benefit them, their families, their communities, and the nation.
Posted October 28, 2008, 8:57pm
Greetings one and all. I have long believed that we need a consistent and robust approach to managing our schools and the teaching force. This requires, of course, a system of accountability that is aligned with that approach. Philip Howard noted earlier that teachers are crushed by bureaucracy. In fact, our schools and teachers are beset by nearly every form of management and accountability ever devised, some of which is appropriate for schools and none of which has ever been fully or faithfully implemented. The result is school systems and a teaching force in which no one is accountable. Currently we can see varying degrees of regulatory, bureaucratic, managerial, market and professional management theories and practices operating in our schools and on our teachers. The result is lots of management, little accountability, a teaching force of uneven quality and widely varying student outcomes. Most management approaches presume that teachers are not to be trusted and therefore must be micromanaged, an approach that has not served all children well. I have long believed in professional accountability which requires that we devise and implement mechanisms to ensure that every child is taught by a teacher who has been determined to be professionally competent and qualified or is at least being taught by novice teachers who are under the direct supervision of accomplished professional teachers.
Posted October 28, 2008, 9:09pm
Obama has repeatedly talked about investing more in teachers in return for some (albeit still undefined) new accountability. The AFT has just created a million dollar fund for experiments in differentiated compensation along the lines of Denver’s ProComp. Governors in upwards of 20 states have urged their school districts to move away from the single salary schedule. Young teachers are decidedly more supportive of pay-for-performance approaches than their older colleagues. I suspect that Randi Weingarten, despite some earlier statements in NYC, will want to become more Shankeresque. With Democrats in control of the Congress, it is likely that there will be money to more fully fund a reauthorized and modified NCLB.
One hopes that with the realities of global economic competition, coupled with growing awareness of a school system in which one-third of our students fail to graduate high school and another third leave with skills well below what is required for success in higher education, the workplace and the military will catalyze leadership at all levels of government. Finally, don’t underestimate how much good can come from Obama’s dissatisfaction with the failure of the status quo to educate inner-city kids.
Posted October 28, 2008, 9:11pm
In our second day, what say we try to have some more concrete discussion about what might represent a 'new deal' for teachers? Let's go back: What is now the teacher's job? What is now the teacher's role in the school? What is now the teacher's career? How, specifically, might these change?
Steve, let me try an answer to your opening question about the interest in, or demand for, a new deal. It's one that goes back to your own work with Public Agenda—to the 2003 Stand By Me report. Here's a note I wrote about it at the time.
The upshot is this. Steve asks now what's the potential for a new deal. What interests teachers seems an important part of that 'potential.' My note is about what the Public Agenda survey found by way of the teachers' interest in being able to "run and manage" the school as a professional group. The numbers are important: 58% of the teachers said they'd be somewhat or very interested in working in that arrangement; two-thirds of the under-five-year teachers and half of the over-20-year teachers.
Michael Mulgrew, what do you sense listening to newer/younger teachers, about their career aspirations?
Posted October 29, 2008, 10:11am
Despite the many constraints, not the least are massive budget shortfalls at the federal, state and district levels, we need to remember that the last true “New Deal” occurred during the same type of dire economic conditions. Sometimes when the ox is truly in the ditch, everyone recognizes the need to jump in and help.
Facing such significant budget issues, states and districts are losing the ability to simply give another traditional across-the-board raise and move on. This combined with a new generation of teacher—as well as union leader—offers opportunity. Combine this with evolving models of change that are proving successful. For Example, Guilford County, North Carolina, has developed programs, Mission Possible and the Cumulative Effect, to provide incentives and support to effective teachers working in high needs schools. We all can cite other examples.
Ted Kolderie reminds us that teachers need to know what the new deal would be. As this vision is presented, we will find more young people interested in signing up. Likewise, smart union leaders who are recognizing that changing times require changed approaches.
Posted October 29, 2008, 11:02am
A number of participants want to talk about the substance of the “new deal” for teachers. Value-added models (based on student growth rather than absolute achievement) can fairly and accurately identify the “tails” of the teacher distribution (the best and worst performers). When this empirical component is coupled with sophisticated observation protocols that provide multiple measures and appropriate human safeguards, we have a solid foundation for a new approach to evaluation and compensation. In the upcoming “Grand Education Bargain: New Rewards, New Supports, New Accountability,” educator incentives, both positive and negative, are aligned with the goal of increased student learning. The new deal we’ve developed consists of two quid-pro-quos:
An Expanded Role for Teachers in Return for Individual Responsibility for Student Learning
In return for accepting individual-level accountability, teachers would win an expanded role in their schools: peer review, a key part in the process of remediating their struggling colleagues, and equal say in major issues that affect their classrooms. Once the classroom rather than the bargaining table becomes the venue in which teacher career success is determined, administrators can no longer impose on them selections of professional development, curriculum or assessments not mandated by the state.
New Investment in the Public Schools in Return for Adopting the Framework
In return for accepting individual-level accountability for educators (all administrators as well as teachers), the public sector—federal, state or local government—would increase its investment in the schools, by providing funds (for additional compensation for top performers and expanded professional development for all educators) that are necessary to sustain the reforms over time.
Posted October 29, 2008, 11:48am
We can devote more time for each of you to talk about the specifics of this new deal, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that a consensus appears to be emerging that any new deal must be predicated upon some reciprocal sacrifice.
For example, improving working conditions (increased respect and higher pay) will require teachers to assume more professional obligations. Less micro-management will require increased accountability. But how will the thousands of political school districts and the states advance such new deals? Who will enforce these new arrangements when parents are typically disengaged and political leaders lack will? In light of current economic conditions, is it even realistic to put on the table increasing school budgets? If we agree teachers should be paid more, what should be cut?
Posted October 29, 2008, 12:49pm
Ted Hershberg talks about 'individual accountability' for the teacher. Is that better than collegial accountability for the group of teachers? Is individual accountability even workable? How would it work?
The answer to Steve's question about finances probably is that, near-term at least, it is not realistic to think about significantly increasing the financing for K-12 and for salaries. There is growing concern that the current model is economically unsustainable.
How many of us think higher salaries should be the primary element of a 'new deal' for teachers?
Posted October 29, 2008, 2:19pm
Intelligent students used to ask me, “If you know so much, why are you a teacher?” Why do teachers deserve a new deal when the prevailing attitude is still that anyone can be a teacher? In the eyes of the general public, teaching still remains a profession of “can’ts.” How do we change this perception but through higher salaries generating greater competition between talented individuals who will logically be trusted with more autonomy in their classrooms? Within individual schools and school systems, there is much wasteful bureaucracy and a system of “assistants” that is currently in place because we do not believe teachers are capable of instructing their classrooms without additional supports. Also, a more respected and talented workforce will decrease the absurd amount of budgeting earmarked for teacher trainings and consultants that are usually of little value to classroom teachers. Of course, nationally, the money does exist to increase educational spending and teacher salaries, if the education of our children was a national priority. Lastly, as we discuss a new deal for teachers, I am wondering how any new deal will significantly improve student achievement, especially in low-income traditional schools, when parental involvement in a child’s education is a far more important factor in student success than teachers’ job satisfaction.
Posted October 29, 2008, 3:22pm
Steve—good questions all regarding how a new deal could be advanced. It obviously has to be a collective effort that involves not only teachers but higher education, school districts and school boards, advocates, elected officials, parents, etc. There must be some sort of shared responsibility and shared accountability among all stakeholders.
I want to get back to what the substance of a "new deal" could look like. Looking beyond the aforementioned issues such as teacher pay and teacher accountability, a "new deal" must also include a renewed commitment to expanding and enhancing teacher preparation programs. Let's analyze what we're teaching and how we're teaching it, and look for ways that we can better prepare tomorrow's workforce.
We need a comprehensive, informed state-of-the-art curriculum, of course, but we also need to take teacher preparation to a new level by focusing more on engagement techniques and how to teach base academic skills in a contextual environment. Teachers must be able to look beyond the lesson plan and find ways to integrate the happenings of our rapidly-changing world into their discussions. Today's students are literally wired into that world through their computers and portable electronics, and teachers must compete with that drone of multi-media distraction.
Impossible? No. But it will take a great deal of time and effort. If we want a quality workforce and we want that workforce to buy into any sort of new deal, it's well worth that effort.
Posted October 29, 2008, 4:41pm
Let me ask: Do we assume that any 'new deal' would have to be general—uniform, implemented all at once everywhere for everybody? Or could we be trying different deals, different places at different times? Experimenting; testing, in other words.
I might be wrong, but I sense that the fundamental at the bottom of all this is the teachers' insistence that they cannot be held accountable for things they do not control. Think back to John Merrow's series for PBS on that "turnaround" principal in Richmond, VA. Some distance into his struggle in that 750-student middle school he appeals to the teachers for help. "Hey, you're in charge," they say. "It's your problem." Maybe it's possible to buy accountability with a high salary. Do we think so?
Posted October 29, 2008, 4:48pm
One cannot think about a new deal for teachers absent a consideration of the outmoded model of schooling that prevents fresh thinking about teaching. As I wrote in an Education Week Commentary, Teaching Teams, a few years ago, teaching remains the only professional work conducted by solo practitioners. All other professional services are delivered by teams, with senior professionals in charge and a mix of novices and others doing much of the actual work. Senior professionals are fully accountable for the results even as the novices are learning by doing, generally at the expense of the client. The new deal for teachers—with high compensation for those who mange to become senior professionals—must involve a staged career, with the development of novices firmly under the supervision of accomplished professionals.
Posted October 29, 2008, 4:53pm
Fascinating discussion today. Let me add a thought about how to achieve change here.
We need to avoid having the debate evolve into the "traditional channels" where the usual parties square off against each other with the usual arguments, thereby producing a "rut."
If we can bring some new players into the argument—strange bedfellows—there's a better likelihood of changing the dynamic, broadening the discussion, and getting more people to invest in the type of change we need.
Specifically, I'm thinking about Wal-Mart and the SEIU pursuing together some broad principles around health care reform.
Is it possible, therefore, to identify such principles here as an initial step in forging a new, unusual, and dynamic coalition that might change the traditional debate and actually accomplish something?
Posted October 29, 2008, 5:09pm
Several of the comments refer to 'what teachers want' and I'd like to throw into the mix some lessons I've learned over the too many years doing research on teacher attitudes: 1) It's extremely difficult to get teachers to admit they can control student learning—they have to tick up the litany of factors that stand in their way—and they are quick to point out that one year they look like great teachers the next year incompetent because of the students; 2) They are open to differential rewards based upon teacher effort and sacrifice (hard to teach students and schools), resistant to tying it to student achievement, and extremely resistant to tying it to hard measures (test scores); 3) They are much less attached to teacher tenure than many experts believe; and, 4) They are very wary of incentives and managerial schemes imported from the business sector—and this can only have gotten worse in today's economic context.
Posted October 29, 2008, 5:38pm
We should definitely be experimenting with many "new deals," provided they are carefully evaluated so we can understand the impact of different reform strategies. Investment from the public sector—federal, state and local levels—can provide funds to sustain the pilots. If they prove successful in generating substantial gains in student achievement, voters can be asked if they are willing to pay higher taxes in return for these results. Recall that Denver voters, by a margin of 2 to 1, agreed to pay a surcharge on their real estate taxes that generated a 12 percent increase in total compensation for DPS teachers.
I sense that many of you may be unaware of how sophisticated growth models can be used to isolate the impact of instruction and thereby provide an empirical component in teacher evaluation. Data sets can now be created that track individual students over time and match their scores in all tested subjects with the teachers who taught them. Much empirical research has been conducted in recent years that confirms the accuracy of these models in identifying the "tails" of the teacher distribution—that is, the most effective and the least effective performers. For the first time, we can have a fair and accurate measure of instructional effectiveness. When used appropriately—as part of a balanced system (inputs and outputs), among multiple measures, and accompanied by safeguards to ensure that consequential personnel decisions are made in a process of peer assistance and review—it is an entirely new approach to human capital development in pubic education. When scores are aggregated for schools and districts, we have an empirical component to use in the evaluation of all administrators.
Posted October 29, 2008, 9:10pm
I am not quite as confident as Ted Hershberg about the current status of the research to track individual student achievement over time. That work is terribly important, but still in the early stages and full of problems. Nevertheless he is completely right—this is the future of a new deal for teachers. As many have said in these exchanges, we need to focus on a new tradeoff of professional autonomy for accountability. It is not fair to control every aspect of a teacher’s working life and then hold them accountable for student outcomes. On the other hand, autonomy without accountability makes no sense either. It is long past time to allow any teacher to say, “I can’t make a difference….these kids have too many problems.” The Education Trust, among others, has research that makes a very compelling case that, as they say, “Good Teaching Matters . . . A lot.” And in time we will have the student outcome measures that we need to evaluate what good teaching really looks like and who is doing it. And that will be the key to a new deal that many can support.
Posted October 29, 2008, 10:24pm
The idea of experimentation is quite important. The earlier welfare-reform model—in which states received federal waivers to conduct innovative approaches—involved a "bottom up" approach to reform that ultimately informed and shaped the resulting federal legislation.
I am increasingly skeptical of a grand bargain or compact in today's climate. We are more likely to see incrementalism rather than a blockbuster, one-size-fits-all approach.
Grand bargains are more likely to be realized sooner in healthcare reform, deficit reform, and entitlement reform. NCLB absorbed a lot of policy airtime over the last eight years. There may be some public fatigue here (look at the difficulty the Gates and Broad Foundations had in positioning education as a top election issue).
That fatigue, however, is no excuse for not continuing to pursue policy innovation at state and local levels.
Posted October 30, 2008, 9:18am
I never disagree with Charlie Kolb, but I will this once. The new deal I see is professional freedom in exchange for personal accountability. This is not an incremental change but a major shift.
We don't acknowledge the inherently individual aspect of teacher effectiveness. All the organization stifles the personality needed to hold student attention. Teachers hate all this bureaucracy, and understand that it impedes their ability to succeed.
Freedom goes a long way. Visit any successful school, and you will find a culture in which educators feel free to be themselves.
Posted October 30, 2008, 9:36am
I agree with Charles about the reality of a general fatigue with education reform . . . and also the fact that the fatigue is no excuse for not pursuing what is needed. I think there are at least two sources of the fatigue that we need to address—the fact that so much energy has gone into education reform (with NCLB but one among many ventures) with so little to show, but also the fact that the population bulge known as the baby boomers now have seen most of their children graduate from school and have moved on to other concerns. Education today is a concern about “other people’s children” for many voters.
Before this exchange is over I hope we can also talk about teacher education. If we are serious about a new deal for teachers, one key is certainly a complete reinvention of the way teachers are prepared.
Posted October 30, 2008, 9:43am
Good morning all. As we embark upon our final day of the discussion, let's sharpen the specifics of a possible new deal. If we want less bureaucracy and more individual accountability, what might that look like, practically speaking? How do we evaluate "good teaching" without bureaucracy? Who will decide what good teaching is? While it may not be possible to start with a clean slate, what core operating principles would you insist upon in designing a successful school? And, recognizing the political and fiscal constraints on major reforms, would experimental pilots be the best path forward for developing this model?
Posted October 30, 2008, 10:34am
Please let me clarify. I NEVER disagree with Philip. My point was that I believe a new deal will be difficult to achieve in the current climate. I very much agree with and support Philip’s vision and the fact that it would represent major change.
My concern is that we need some detailed tactical thinking about how to achieve it and over what period of time. It won’t be a “big bang” result, in my view.
Effective teacher training needs to be part of that overall tactical approach.
Posted October 30, 2008, 10:58am
It’s striking to me that we can have a conversation about “less bureaucracy and more individual accountability” in K-12 education and not mention charter schools. So let me do it: charter schools. These are excellent vehicles for experimenting with a “new deal” for teachers. Of course, the best charters have already been doing this for many years—recruiting top-flight talent, engaging teachers as true professionals, holding them accountable for results, recognizing their contributions with additional pay, and keeping bureaucracy at bay. And now the very best among charter schools—I’m thinking of the “charter management organizations” KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools—are getting into the teacher education business, too. (Separately, so is High Tech High.) We don’t have to dream up a new deal for teachers—these real-live initiatives are already showing the way.
Posted October 30, 2008, 11:08am
The book we've just completed, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides the details. Here are some highlights.
We propose a system in which half of a teacher's evaluation is based on observation and half on student learning results measured through value-added assessment. For the observation portion we use the Framework for Teaching developed by Charlotte Danielson. It provides multiple measures through 22 components in four broad domains (planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities) and provides rubrics to identify different levels of expertise from unsatisfactory to distinguished. Teachers, not administrators, are responsible for the evaluation of their colleagues through a peer review process.
The results from value-added assessment can be used to create three categories of instruction: highly effective, effective and ineffective (using three-year running averages). Using an external growth standard means teachers compete only with themselves—not with each other—to exceed growth targets. There is no “Darwinian” competition undermining teacher collaboration.
The system includes a career ladder. Teachers move up the ladder provided they meet the requirements at each rung. Increasingly higher salary is built into each rung and each rung provides base pay and variable pay; variable pay is divided into an individual award (teacher) and a group award (school). Steps within rungs are tied not to longevity, but to maintaining the value-added requirements at each rung.
One-time bonuses—not salary—are paid for graduate degrees; ditto for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. No salary increases are provided for graduate courses taken after the BA and MA. Mandated remediation is provided for struggling teachers, who have ample time and support to improve; but failing to do so leads to dismissal through a process in which teachers and administrators agree on the decision.
Administrators are treated in a parallel fashion.
Posted October 30, 2008, 11:25am
If the accountability for teachers were collegial (rather than individual) then decisions about recruitment, quality, performance, evaluation, assignment, termination and perhaps even compensation could be internalized within the teacher group. This probably is the preferred model for professionals in most occupations. The group holds it members accountable, and accepts responsibility for success. And this professional model is now appearing in K-12, in teaching. It works. In this arrangement, teacher attitudes and teacher behaviors change dramatically. It's not a model to impose on anybody. But most change isn't imposed. Something new appears; those that like it 'buy' it; others stick with the traditional. Over time, new models gradually replace old models. Isn't that the concept of change we want to use in education? Isn't that the only really practical approach? In a way I'm saying ''Yes" here to Steve's question about 'experimental pilots' as the way forward. If anyone wants to look at the cases, let me know. We can get specific about what that professional-partnership model looks like. There is a version that is fully union-compatible. Again: these exist. They work.
Posted October 30, 2008, 11:53am
The successful charter schools all have outstanding teachers. The new empirical research using value-added models makes clear that they are the most important factor in the academic progress of students. The problem with believing that charters are the answer is that they cannot go to scale unless the pool of talented teachers increases significantly.
For this to happen we will have to: (1) recruit a larger share of our best and the brightest college graduates and retain the top performers already in our classrooms; and, (2) develop a new system for professional development, with both positive and negative incentives, for upgrading the human capital of the large majority of our current teachers. This will not happen unless we change how we evaluate and compensate teachers—pay the highly effective ones considerably more money and permit them to earn these salaries based on performance rather than longevity so they can earn top dollar within 7-8 years rather than 30.
We absolutely should continue to promote experimentation in charters, but unless we create a “new deal” for teachers, we will not succeed in transforming our schools in the time demanded by the rapidly changing economy.
Posted October 30, 2008, 11:58am
Of course I agree with Mike Petrilli that the best charter schools do this. But the challenge on the table is getting past the dynamics of World War I trench warfare between unaccountable teachers and micromanaging superintendents. What I'm suggesting is that there's an enormous possible benefit to teachers—purging most bureaucracy in exchange for a practical way of making judgments about whether particular teachers are doing the job.
Posted October 30, 2008, 3:38pm
We’re winding down to our final hours, and I just want to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute any additional practical proposals, and to respond with comments, amendments, or foreseeable difficulties to those already on the table, before we end today.
Posted October 30, 2008, 4:06pm
This has been a very helpful discussion which I am sure will be expanded upon in the next few months. There is one other element I would add to it—as we discuss what we want in a “new deal” for teachers, what do we want teachers of the 21st century to be? For instance, NCLB requires a “highly qualified” teacher in the classroom. But given fast evolving technology applications, does the teacher need to be fully certified in a subject? Or is it sufficient that the teacher be able to guide the discussion about the information that is being brought to the students via the internet or other medium? There are some traditional roles of teachers that are timeless, especially those involving personalization. There are other roles that should be reexamined. This process may lead to making the profession more appealing, attracting motivated individuals, and resulting in a more positive learning experience.
This issue becomes very important to elected policymakers. Will they continue fighting out the longstanding battles on the familiar battlegrounds, or will many of the suggestions made here over the last three days also reflect the extent to which the role of teaching is changing to meet the needs of students of the 21st century?
Posted October 30, 2008, 4:14pm
I very much like the proposals that Theodore Hershberg discusses in his 11:08am posting. It seems to me that those proposals take “value-added” seriously but also reflect the fact that this is not yet a perfect science. I do want to come back to something I said yesterday, I would also add that as teachers move up in pay and position they should also shed (rather than gain) certain other “rights” and be expected to go where they are most needed. The union in Rochester, NY proposed this years ago and it is an important part of their system.
Posted October 30, 2008, 4:42pm
There seems to be a struggle between idealized programs (sometimes on a small scale, sometimes theoretical) on the one hand and what the real world needs and can achieve practically on the other. Somehow we will have to confront the limits of the real world. But, if this is all about limits then no grand change will happen.
Posted October 30, 2008, 5:38pm
Bob Wise raises very important questions. Part of a new deal for teachers is in the terms we have been discussing in such interesting ways—issues of accountability and autonomy. But another part of the issue is what the larger democratic society wants of teachers. For all the talk of "highly qualified" teachers, our society is less than clear on what it means to be highly qualified and thus to be prepared to be highly qualified. While I deeply believe that we need to fundamentally rethink how we prepare teachers, it is hard to do that until we have a clearer public consensus on "prepare for what?" Perhaps a topic for a future discussion.
Posted October 30, 2008, 6:00pm
While the time does appear ripe for a new deal, much work remains to be done to move it from discussion to reality. Many solid proposals have been put on the table here, and I hope they will help fuel future real-world models.
Regrettably, our forum must end, but no doubt the gears will continue to turn in the larger dialogue across the nation. Thank you all for a thoughtful, engaging and productive discussion. It’s been a pleasure!