A NYT editorial today applauds the new New Haven, CT, teacher improvement plan. While their success should be applauded, the question of what took so long still remains.
The plan works as such:
The New Haven system rates teachers individually and gives them the specific help they need. To do that, it focuses on three areas. It considers growth in student learning, as measured by progress on state and local tests and attainment of academic goals. It examines the teacher’s instructional abilities, as measured by frequent observations by principals and other instructional managers. It rates teachers on professionalism, collegiality and whether they have high expectations for all students. Perhaps most important, the system gives teachers almost constant feedback, so that they are fully aware of where they stand and what they need to do to improve.
Teachers who receive the highest rating on a 1-to-5 scale are eligible for stipends and promotion to leadership positions, in which they share skills with colleagues. Those rated lowest on the scale are given intensive coaching and, if they fail to improve, can be dismissed as soon as the end of the school year.
So, in effect, it now works like any other business. Employees are graded based on effectiveness, not effort. Leaders and managers council their subordinates and set expectations and measures to meet them. Professionalism and professional standards are also judged, and the worse either improve or are sent packing. The cream rises.
Isn’t that what education reformers have been demanding for years? This is not a novel idea, but perhaps a novel practice given the strength of teachers unions and the reluctance of politicians to challenge such a strong interest group. But the Times editorial board sees fit to give them a share of the credit.
The first year’s promising results show what can be done when the two sides commit to reform.
New Haven’s path demonstrates that it is possible to hold teachers accountable without crushing morale and wrongfully dismissing good teachers.
In an urban school district that serves disadvantaged children, results matter. And they now have preliminary results because of this plan that seeks to remove the weak teachers for the sake of the children, for whom the schools exist. And to think such plans were delayed as the unions sought to protect teacher morale! Improving the quality of the average teacher and the average student will do far more to improve morale of all parties than tenure, smaller classes, higher pay, and every other excuse proffered by the unions and politicians.