Friday, July 16, 2010

Linking teacher performance, promotion and pay (effectively )

Kentucky's current educator evaluations are too weak: they do not do enough to honor and expand the most effective teaching practices. We're planning to change that, with two major task forces working on new ways to evaluate teachers and principals.  Knowing that, I think a new piece in EdWeek is helpful for thinking about what Kentucky might do. The authors, Catherine Awsumb Nelson and Richard Wertheimer, describe an approach that:
  • does tie promotions and added pay to improved teaching quality.
  • does not settle for the narrow, incomplete measures of that quality we can pull from standardized tests.
They start by pushing back on the too-easy idea of just tying pay to scores:
The practice of paying teachers based on students’ test-score gains rests on a false sense of precision about what those outcomes measure and how they are related to what teachers do in the classroom. Although such plans are often justified with references to best practices in the corporate world, in fact few private-sector employees—with the exception of salespeople—are paid primarily based on an objective measure of outcomes. Instead, most compensation systems recognize that outcomes are multifaceted and their relationship to work processes complex. Powerful compensation systems therefore necessarily incorporate a good deal of expert professional judgment about quality performance.
As a better starting point, they offer the evaluation and compensation approach used at Pittsburgh's City High.  That charter school hammered out definitions of four teaching levels: apprentice, journeyman, expert, and master, with major compensation improvement attached to each move up:
Teachers seeking promotion submit a portfolio of evidence, which is assessed by the school leadership team (administrators and master teachers) using a rubric that includes 15 core teaching components. There are also additional components for those seeking “expert” or “master” status.
Evidence can include written reflections, data analysis, student work, lesson plans, videos, records of formal observations, and at least two “case studies” of how the teacher’s work with an individual student has demonstrated targeted competencies and advanced that student’s learning. Master teachers and other colleagues often provide crucial support as candidates develop their portfolios, through informal observations, reviews of accumulated pieces of evidence, and reflections. Teachers report that going through the promotion process is a powerful learning experience and a source of tremendous professional validation.
Overall, this article, and its links to the school's promotion rubric and a longer report on the process, add to my confidence that Kentucky, too, can move to an evaluation process that strengthens teachers in ways that strengthen students.


  1. "Teachers seeking promotion submit a portfolio of evidence..." This process sounds quite a bit like the process of seeking National Board Certification, where teachers submit evidence of their leadership and mastery in the classroom. That's very interesting to apply that idea locally as well. I gained much, much more from my National Boards work than I ever did in my Master's work because the NB applied to what I was doing in my classroom every day. It was relevant and helped my do my job better on a daily basis. It was not mired in theory, but in practice. I like the idea of implementing that at a local level because it will improve teacher practices and give positive reinforcement to the good teacher practices that are already out there. Plus, it puts the focus on what the teacher is doing (based on artifacts and data), rather than some administrator's opinion about what he/she sees happening in the classroom. Very important distinction there.

  2. I was speaking to an experienced civics teacher from Texas--they require seniors to take civics! What a great concept!

    He requires students to turn in class notes periodically which he grades as part of their overall class grade. Sounds like a great teaching idea to me!


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