The Current State of Teacher Hiring: Many School Systems Lack the Means to Evaluate Teacher Effectiveness
Fraynd, Don, District Administration
Teachers are the single most important factor in student learning. Yet, our field as a whole spends little time ensuring that only the best teachers enter our classrooms--and even less time ensuring that the best teachers feel supported.
In reality, many schools don't have evaluation systems or performance measures in place to assess whether or not teachers are effective. In its study, "The Widget Effect," The New Teacher Project explores "the tendency of school districts to assume classroom effectiveness is the same from teacher to teacher." The study reports that most urban districts give 99 percent of teachers a satisfactory rating. The lack of objectivity in evaluating teacher performance is problematic, since districts must be able to define and identify what makes an effective teacher prior to the hiring process.
Despite the current lack of systems to measure performance, the data to do so is available. Education has a research base that rivals any field, and hundreds of studies have shown us what matters in terms of teaching effectiveness.
However, these studies have been hard to distill and actualize into a program or tool that busy educational leaders can use in making decisions about hiring and teacher development.
Given national policy and the current status of the teaching pool, the need to find and hire the best teachers has never been greater. Consider these issues:
* More teachers needed. Public school enrollment is expected to reach record highs with each passing year through at least 2017. What's more, nearly 50 percent of currently employed teachers expect to depart the profession within their first three to five years on the job.
* Teacher turnover and lack of qualified teachers. Urban and rural districts have many problems, from high teacher turnover to chronic shortages of qualified math, science, and technology teachers.
* Declining quality. Many believe that the quality of the average teacher has decreased as teachers' salaries have declined relative to those of other professions. It will be increasingly difficult for districts to compete for high-quality teachers.
* Educational policy. Recent changes introduced by Race to the Top legislation and similar policies are compelling many states to begin measuring the effectiveness of individual teachers. …