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More on What’s Working

Below, ERS Executive Director Karen Hawley Miles contributes to the National Journal‘s Education Experts blog conversation “In Tough Times, Look to Effectiveness”

I’d like to follow and elaborate on Anne Bryant’s highlighting of the recent groundbreaking collaboration in Baltimore, MD and Hillsborough County, FL. These districts show us how unions and management can work together around the tough questions of who should remain in teaching and who deserves the highest recognition.

In Hillsborough County, school leaders and teachers examine the distribution of ratings together to ensure a common understanding of satisfactory and excellent teaching. They collect and jointly review a rich set of data that enables them—and holds them accountable—to identify individuals who should not be in teaching and taking action to remove these teachers.

In Baltimore City, the new compensation structure builds in rigorous hurdles for reaching each new stage on the career path that must be confirmed by a joint committee of teachers and leaders. Together they have moved beyond the questions of who stays and who goes to create evaluation information that informs hiring, assignment to teams, professional development and career rewards.  As importantly, these districts are designing systems that emphasize collective performance as well as individual contribution and recognize the differences in teacher expertise and experience when assembling teams. 

As districts face cuts this year, there is no time to lose in getting all on board to track a range of data on teacher contribution. Even without perfect data or evaluation tools, the combination of observations implemented with fidelity, student test scores, attendance, and other available information can shed important light on teacher contribution (see The Teaching Job: Restructuring for Effectiveness). Unfortunately, most districts will face budget cuts again next year.  If they don’t devote resources today to implementing existing evaluation systems more rigorously or building new ones, they will be forced to cut some of their most energetic and talented teachers.

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