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Four Must-Reads on Teachers

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I'm swamped today working on a feature, but I'll be back tomorrow with some fresh items related to the Race to the Top. In the meantime, if you're seeking your fix of teacher news, check out these great stories by colleagues, and one from yours truly.

• Debbie Viadero has the scoop on a new study that shows the presence of an effective teacher seems to raise the teaching quality of that educator's peers. Now, the question is: What causes that phenomenon?

• In this story, I write about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's push to identify the most accurate and defensible teacher-effectiveness measures. Observations, value-added, student feedback, you name it - it's here.

• Michele McNeil notes that not all of the teacher-effectiveness proposals in the RTTT are easily workable in our nation's rural school districts. As she writes, it's hard to do great evaluations if you're the only physics teacher for miles around.

• And Lesli Maxwell has a detailed story up on Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's plans to institute site-based hiring over seniority and make other changes to the human-capital structures in Philadelphia. She's working collaboratively withe the union for now, but she has the "nuclear option" to force this stuff on teachers through a series of legal rulings if they hedge.

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Notice the difference between Ackerman's ideas that make sense and are consistent with the other reports you cite. If you plan to transfer 5 or 6 teachers in a cluster to cover each others' backs, surely that would be a voluntary transfer. You wouldn't just take a half dozen top teachers and draft them into such a unit would you?

But if you force transfers of high-performing teachers (especially if they have evidence of effectiveness with at-risk students) those teachers have leverage and they will typically leave the system rather than be coerced. In fact, I bet there are a lot of teachers who would be glad to accept the challenge of a tough school if treated with respect, but who be so offended (and rightfully so) that they'd leave the district. In my experience, the great majority would refuse to submit to such an idignity.

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