"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Teach Plus": Teachers at the Core of a Successful Education Reform

In 2003, Jennifer King Rice, a professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland published a book entitled, "Teacher Quality: Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes", in which she studied how various characteristics of a teacher could influence learning outcomes of students. Her findings showed that there was often an improvement over years in effectiveness among beginning teachers indicating that experience was important. Teachers did learn by actually teaching. With regard to preparation, the pedigree was important. Highly selective teaching schools produced more effective teachers. Rice explained this correlation with better teachers having better cognitive abilities since admission to these prestigious schools warranted good academic records and aptitude. Effective teachers in both secondary math and science were those who obtained advanced degrees in these fields. On the other hand, advanced degrees seemed to have mixed outcomes with elementary schools. This observation paralleled results that indicated content coursework in a teacher's preparation was very consequential in high school but less so at the elementary level.

In a recent post at HechingerEd, Jackie Mader described how some low-performing schools in Boston had managed to turn around. The post, "Giving Teachers More Power Helps in Turnaround of Boston Schools", highlighted the T3 Initiative program, a collaboration between Boston Public Schools and Teach Plus. In this program, experienced and effective teachers are selected and recruited to teach in the failing schools:
In addition to training and hiring new teachers, the six schools in the T3 Initiative, provided health and wellness services for students, and intensive teacher professional development over the summer. Teach Plus teachers make up 25 percent of the school faculty at T3 schools, and serve in leadership roles to help other teachers improve.
Analysis of the results for elementary (Grades 1 through 6) and middle (grades 7-8) schools had been provided by John Papay of Brown University. Here are the two figures summarizing the results:

Figure downloaded from http://www.teachplus.org/uploads/Documents/1321560335_T3%20Program%20Analysis.pdf
The data shown here are the schools' average students' growth percentiles, a measure of how much a student's performance has improved in a school that is turning around. Shown in red are the numbers for the schools that are participating in the T3 program. The results for middle schools are especially promising for T3. T3 seems to be superior as well for mathematics in elementary school. The results are of course not surprising. As the following wordle on the cover of the Facebook page of Teach Plus nicely illustrates, teachers are at the core of education:


Celine Coggins, the chief executive officer of Teach Plus, states the following challenge to society:
"Improving teacher quality requires more than getting smart people to consider teaching: it requires building a profession that retains high performers and allows them to take on leadership roles while continuing to work with students."
Getting the smart people to consider teaching is only the first step. Teachers are lifelong learners.


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