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Revising Teacher Quality and School Finance


An analysis conducted for Quality Counts 2006 by the EPE Research Center found a positive relationship between states that had pursued a standards-based education agenda and gains in student achievement.

But preliminary analyses showed a slight negative relationship between state efforts to improve teacher quality and student-achievement gains. And there was no relationship between state education finance indicators and student-achievement trends, after taking into account initial performance differences across states.

In part for those reasons, Quality Counts 2007 is taking a one-year hiatus from grading the states and from including indicators related to either teacher quality or school finance. In the coming year, we will be reaching out to the larger education community for ideas about how to incorporate teacher quality and school finance into future reports.

As a first step in this effort, we invite you to share any thoughts you have on the most effective ways to measure teacher quality and school finance in future reports. What policy indicators should be considered? What research should be taken into account? What perspective needs to be taken when looking at these issues?


Regardless of the certificate hanging on the wall, many years in the classroom, hundreds of students, several wise and patient mentors, and continuous personal and professional development (including but not limited to achieving an advanced degree) have been the key to becoming a highly qualified classroom teacher.
Something I don't understand, if I am valued as a professional with specialized knowledge, why does my state offer quick and easy entry into my profession to anyone with a bachelor's degree? (post-back certification) It is time to clear up this misconception that anyone can walk in off the street and become a classroom teacher. This is the most insulting and demoralizing statement I face as a professional educator.

One of the issues that is of concern to me and others is the methods used to determine who is or is not a "quality" educator. Each state determines what steps educators must take to be certified and qualified. Potential teachers, sometimes very experienced teachers who move from one state to another, are subject to tests that are not nationally normed. Exams that are supposed to determine knowledge of a particular discipline often are inadequate. I have personally spoken with experience educators who cannot get certified to teach languges other than English (Spanish, French, Kemher, etc.) because they have not passed the English Languge Proficiency exam. I have also spoken with senior students in honors level Spanish classes at my school and other schools in Massachusetts who cannot carry on a simple conversation in Spanish.

One thing I believe that would benefit both teachers and students is rewards. Teachers who have students who are scoring advanced in literacy or math should get one reward, then those who had students score at least proficient in literacy or math should get a reward, although somewhat smaller. The main problems rural school districts face is we have numerous amounts of "special attention" given to sports. I am not against sports except for when they become so important to get that particular coach here regardless of how good of a teacher he/she might be, then we are failing our children. Personally speaking our K-6 school teachers are doing an excellent job, the students are doing great on tests, their GPA matches their performance on a test (which to me is proof of a great teacher). When you go to our next school (in town) 7-12, the scores are terrible, the GPA's do not match standardized tests or ACT test which means they are not ready for college, and these are where we are putting the coaches. In trying to make my point, teachers who do not have at least 60% of their students to achieve advanced or proficient, should be put on some kind of academic watch/probation. If we are not looking out for the children's best interest towards a better future, then we have no business in the education field. If the student's level of learning has advanced then it would make a lot of sense requiring the teachers to be more advanced. This is an issue that I'm sure many teachers are going to get angry for even 'implying' they are not staying up-to-par. But I would urge them, for one second to explain to me why it would not be a reasonable request to require any teacher that has failed at their job and do not have more than half pass a test of which, could be passed with proper teaching? In k-6 here we may have 3 to 4 students score below basic level in literacy or math (in one grade), but you move to the high school and they have only 16 children to score proficient or advanced, I do not believe that children all of the sudden become stupid. What I do believe is this (speaking only from my state) once you leave Elementary School, you are on your own. We no longer care about education, we do not strive to see students score at top level. When you look at the ACT scores, on average every single person graduating this year will have to take remedial courses in every category according to the college requirements. If this isn't a sure sign of not being a good teacher, I wouldn't know what it does mean. How about reward the teachers that have students "matching" their GPAs with standardized tests (include more than one) BUT the teachers who fail to provide a proper education require them to attend summer school, and if the following year they have not improved,require a monitoring device in their classroom and send the tapes to the State Board to get an evaluation from them. If, after the 3rd year no improvement don't just fire that teacher suspend their license, until they go back to college and learn more! After all, these same teachers are trying to let our children go to college, without a proper education. I'm not too terribly concerned about "stepping" on teachers toes in this subject because, those who have a problem with these standards more than likely shouldn't be teaching to begin with. I don't know about the feelings of other, but I AM concerned, and it does sadden me, that out of the entire 11th grade class only 16 passed a literacy exam. Who is being held accountable? The students certainly do not realize what is wrong with having that fun teacher that you really don't have to do much and you'll still get an A, because they are still children!! But, they'll find out soon enough once they try to enter college, find out they'll have to take remedial courses that don't count towards ANYTHING, they will be stunned and I think it is unacceptable to allow schools to continue to do this, especially because they are "rural" schools. We have given those teachers and schools every "special" rules we can meanwhile, the students are suffering. Every teacher should be accountable, not just big schools, not just poor schools but every school. In my state, the requirements for schools to be put in academic distress 75% of all students have to score below basic, that it completely too low of a standard and I believe somebody ought to set guidlines for states who seem to think this kind of standard is in the best interest of children. If it is not about being in the best interest of the children what is the education meant for?

I receive the paper at my school which is Cunningham Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas, but I more of a question than a comment. Is there any you can tell me about the Citizen Schools. There aren't any in Corpus. Is there any way one could work out of the school living in another area where there is no Citizen School? Could you e-mail me some information?

Our current measurements of teacher quality are very crude. Certification status, subject matter knowledge, verbal ability, and/or experience simply don't capture what happens when good teachers meet children in their classrooms. Deborah Ball and others are working on measuring teacher knowledge in reading and math and have some promising new assessments. At a minimum measures of teacher quality must pick up subject matter knowledge, knowledge related to teaching that subject matter--what are common errors in children's thinking,what should a teacher do to correct those errors--and the use of effective routines to keep students engaged.

On face value it seems clear that teachers can't teach things they don't understand. Unfortunately many of our measures do not test the specific knowledge that teachers teach. There are few good assessments of teacher knowledge of teaching strategies specific to conveying particular content.

We also don't have good information about what actually happens in American classrooms. We track achievement using nationally representative samples but we do not track instruction with such samples. This is a huge gap in the information we need to improve schooling.

At its last Board of Directors meeting the International Reading Association authorized funding for IRA's Status of Reading Instruction Institute. The Institute is charged with providing periodic descriptions of reading instruction in the United States based on survey, log, and observation data.

I find myself drawing a parallel between this elusive construct we call teacher quality, and former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obsenity: "I know it when I see it." In the past few days I have heard no fewer than five public school administrators echo Stewart's comment with regard to teacher quality.

Personally, I find another quote more apropos: In William Goldman's The Princess Bride the character Inigo Montoya, an alcohol-besotted mercenary, reacts to his employer's repeated use of the word "inconceivable," with the remark, "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." Despite all the think-tank reports, public fora, academic journal articles and research studies devoted to teacher quality, I don't think it means what we think it means.

Any discussion of teacher quality needs to consider multiple variables, the majority of which are beyond a school's or teacher's control. The current focus on teacher content knowledge, university credits, and test scores as predictors of quality does not correspond to the reality of urban classrooms. I have encountered students who would only respond positively to a male teacher; for such students, gender would be a relevant predictor of teacher quality. I have encountered teachers who were extremely successful with low-performing students because they struggled (and continued to struggle) with academics themselves; in this case, experience with academic failure would seem to be a relevant predictor of teacher quality.

I don't believe that the construct of teacher quality can be decontextualized. A teacher demonstrates quality and effectiveness under a certain set of circumstances; for some teachers this arena of effectiveness is broader than for other teachers. Rather than continue the present course of attempting to define and replicate some mythical Superteacher who can be all things to all students, perhaps energy and resources could be devoted to finding congruence between teacher characteristics and the scholastic needs of specific groups of students.

While I believe that we as professionals should always seek "a better way" to accomplish our objective (the successful education of students) we do not deserve the level of the spotlight that we are continuously subjected to. The basic fact remains that there are people who have more influence on the conduct and morals of students that adversely affect our classrooms. When will the powers that be hold parents more accountable for their negative contribution to the public school environment? I have each student for 50 minutes per day. The hours that they spend at home with or without their parents have a greater affect than my 50 minutes. When will parents that refuse to come to student support meetings be held accountable? When will parents who reward their suspended students with shopping sprees be held accountable?

I am a student teacher, and have substitute some. I don't believe parents should be held accountable for student success, because historically students have been taught without any parental input. Also, I have seen that many of my fellow students don't study well, and are not very intellectual, but I can still see them as successful elementary school teachers. I believe that the most noticeable attribute of teacher success is caring. A caring teacher will try some Spanish to reach a parent who needs to know about her child's progress; a caring teacher will do the extra things he or she finds her children need for their success, whether it's more knowledge and preparation on his or her part, breakfast and a comb on hand for the kids, or staying after school with them to make sure every child's homework gets done. Also, children can feel caring, respond to caring. Unfortunately, caring is difficult to observe and measure. But here's a hint: it probably doesn't object to testing that indicates if the children are succeeding, but it can be stifled by an administration that insists on only one, usually substandard, method of achieving success; and killed by an local or national administrative climate that rewards rote mediocracy and punishes innovation.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Michelle: I am a student teacher, and have substitute some. I read more
  • Angela Gilliam/Mathematics-Middle School: While I believe that we as professionals should always seek read more
  • K. Fernandez, Ph.D.: I find myself drawing a parallel between this elusive construct read more
  • Cathy Roller Director of Research and Policy, International Reading Association: Our current measurements of teacher quality are very crude. Certification read more
  • Kay Taylor/Librarian: I receive the paper at my school which is Cunningham read more




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