Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Performance-based Teacher licensing offers a career path!

Who could possibly be opposed to this, aside from the MEA?

Detroit News: Teacher rating plan would raise quality (10/23/07)

This sounds very similar to
the merit pay plan I wrote about last April offered by the Center for Teacher quality.

I couldn't find any details on the Michigan Department of Education's website,
other than this, so drop me a line if you hear more.

Here is the text of the "right on the mark" Detroit News article, in case the link doesn't work:

Teacher rating plan would raise quality
The Detroit News

Imagine a boss who never considers your work performance for job promotions or licensing. That would be a joke in most fields -- and it's shocking that it isn't in the teaching profession.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan is trying to change that with his new effort to improve Michigan's teacher licensing system.

The bold reforms, rolled out this month, were developed by a committee of parents, higher education experts, K-12 educators and policymakers during the past year. They want to make state teacher licensing and license renewals based more on teachers' actual impact on students' learning and less on credentials such as advanced degrees, improvement courses and time on the job -- the basis of Michigan's current system.

Under the Flanagan-led plan,
Michigan's licensing process would become a three-tiered, performance-based system. Teachers' performance would be evaluated repeatedly to ensure high standards throughout teachers' careers -- and better teaching for students.

At tier one, young teachers' performance and teacher preparation training will be considered. At tier two, the state will continue to assess performance before renewing teachers' licenses.

At tier three, teachers who want to become "senior teachers" would voluntarily meet even higher standards. Seasoned teachers like the idea because it gives them an opportunity to advance without becoming administrators.

This also provides an objective mechanism for administrators to reward teachers who continue to strive for excellence. And it's a smart way to retain experienced, high-quality teachers, which Michigan needs as it ramps up its standards and high school curriculum.

Flanagan's ideas make so much common sense, they will be surely attacked by teachers' unions and their advocates. The public and political leaders need to make sure these reforms are not gutted to become meaningless.

Expect a fight about who will design the teacher evaluation assessments and how assessments will be done. It will be easy to water down such evaluations.

So any state committee charged with developing the assessment must not be over-weighted with representatives of the Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan.

Another caveat: If Michigan's student achievement tests and passing standards continue to be lowered -- as the state has done twice in recent years -- then tying teacher performance evaluations to their students' test scores would help make these reforms meaningless.

"We have some schools where students can practically pass themselves on tests, they're so easy," says State Board of Education member Marianne McGuire, a Democrat.

To address this pitfall, Flanagan is proposing Michigan use what is called the growth model, an objective, technology-based method of tracking teachers' impact on individual student learning compared with students' previous ability. This system takes into consideration schools' socioeconomic challenges -- one of the MEA's major criticisms -- and allows for districts to pinpoint the teachers whose students consistently fall behind.

That tool would make it increasingly difficult for the worst teachers to hide in their classrooms and keep up their licenses.

"We want to be in the top 10, not only for football, but for education," Flanagan says.

Teacher quality is one of the most important influences on student achievement. For students' sake, state policymakers need to make sure special interests do not curtail the implementation of these courageous improvements.

1 comment:

Bill Milligan said...

This is an issue more complex than might first appear. Our college, for example, like pretty much all community colleges, has an "open enrollment" policy. No one is turned away. No one. Your past doesn't matter, your grades, your medical conditions that might impact learning. And I personally love that about the community college and it's one of the reasons I gravitated to the community college when I got the call to teach.

But it also occurs to me that a merit system--one not "watered down" (translation: containing protections for teachers)--could be unfairly used to harass or reprimand teachers based on surface data (GPAs, pass percentages, and exit exam results) that aren't the fault of the instructor.

So while such a concept provides a nice political sound bite in certain circles and with certain audiences, it is, like it or not, much more complex than simply saying "we need a merit system--make those teachers accountable!"