Finding poor teachers | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finding poor teachers

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 4:50 PM

The Arkansas Education Association sends around a statement cheering a new national report that suggests part of the problem with poor teachers is that there's a "pervasive indifference" to evaluating teachers. (In other words, don't blame tenure or the perceived inability to fire bad teachers for their presence in classrooms. Blame the lack of a good system to assess teachers, This includes a failure to recognize excellence, as well as to root out the inadequate.)

The report was based on reviews of four states, including Arkansas. Find out all about it here. It's not likely to move the convinced. The Walton U. crowd will still blame  the unions, even though most districts in Arkansas don't have them.

I must repeat my tired old rant. I've seen schools where principals knew good teachers, made them feel welcome and didn't renew slackers -- unions and potential lawsuits be damned.  These were successful schools (yes, even in bad old LR). It can be done. I've seen schools with less rigorous leadership and predictable results. Are there enough such good leaders and teachers to stock all the schools in the country? It's a big task, given the money available, the competition from other professions and the teacher commitment necessary even in the best situated school, never mind all those populated by indifferent-to-resistant students from uninvolved homes.


LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - A report released June 1 by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) identifies how poor teacher performance is rarely identified or addressed, and argues that the reasons why school districts retain low-performing teachers have less to do with tenure and due process and more to do with flawed evaluation systems. 

The report, "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness," highlights a position that the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) has long advocated:  the need for comprehensive evaluation systems and clear professional standards designed to help teachers enhance their own practice.

The report describes a study that encompassed four states – Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio. It indicates that truly effective teachers are not adequately recognized and cites a “pervasive indifference to teacher performance” in our nation’s public schools. The report offers many positive recommendations, including 1) reforming evaluation systems and 2) training administrators and other evaluators in those systems.

AEA and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) recognize the challenge of accurately identifying great teachers should know and be able to do. This is true, in part because the teacher evaluation criteria currently vary among school districts and are not clear. AEA recently accepted an invitation from the ADE to assist in the formation of an education task force, which will develop a recommended teacher evaluation instrument for school districts in Arkansas. This new assessment tool will help the state clearly define criteria of a highly effective teacher and thus raise professional teaching standards. This will ultimately improve the quality of teaching, and thus improve student performance.

"Our mission has always been to provide great public schools for every student in Arkansas, and making sure that all children have access to the best teachers in the state is a core component of that mission," said AEA President Daniel N. Marzoni II.  "A recommended single standardized, uniform evaluation will help to ensure the same high quality of teaching statewide. It is essential that our administrators thoroughly understand the evaluation system, are properly trained and are held accountable for its appropriate and professional use."

The ADE formally announced its plans for the task force in early May 2009. The ADE has contracted with Charlotte Danielson, author and developer of the Praxis III performance-based assessment, to help it expand on Praxis III to develop the new evaluation instrument. Praxis III is a highly structured program that includes observation of the teacher's classroom practice, review of written materials prepared by the teacher, interviews with the teacher before and after the observation, and new teacher mentoring.
The task force, which will be in place for two years, will meet for the first time July 22-24. The goal is for a pilot program to be available to school districts by the fall of 2010, and the final program should be available to all school districts for the 2011-2012 school year.
The task force is comprised of 12 teachers, which AEA has helped to select, and 12 school administrators.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by ensuring that poor and minority students get outstanding teachers. For more information about TNTP, visit their Web site at


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