New New Teacher Project Report

This new TNTP report on teacher evaluations is a big deal and will likely, and rightly, get a lot of attention.  Essentially, TNTP asks why, if teachers are so important, do we treat them like widgets in American education?  It’s the right question because despite all the rhetoric about how important teachers are and despite the importance of people in a labor-intensive field like education, the lack of systematic attention to teacher effectiveness in education is shocking.  This report is the most ambitiouseffort to date to look at that question systematically and offer concrete steps that can be taken to improve the status quo.

17 Responses to “New New Teacher Project Report”

  1. Mary Says:

    It’s amazing that someone is finally looking into this! I still find it shocking how hard it is to “get rid” of ineffective teachers. I remember speaking with my principal on the differences between education and other occupations, when he told me that it takes 3 years to fire an ineffective, tenured teacher. The first year to tell the teacher what they are doing wrong, the second year to see if they change or make improvements, and the third year they can finally be fired if those changes or improvements are not made. I am sure my jaw dropped when he claimed that is was easier to “make them uncomfortable” and have them transfer to a different school. Um, does anyone else see a problem with this?

    And is it any wonder that we have such a high percentage of burn-out rates among first to 4 year teachers? As soon as you show that you are competent or excel is something, teachers are then bombarded with extra work, more responsibilities (outside of the classroom, of course) or moved to a different classroom or subject. It is almost easier to be inefficient and fly under the radar! Heavens knows that merit-based raises are out of the question!

    I cannot understand why it is so difficult to understand what education is all about! Anyone involved in education should ask themselves at the beginning and end of everyday, “Am I doing what is best for the students?”

  2. john thompson Says:

    Regarding Toledo, its my understanding that the NTTP misplaced a decimal point in their report. I’m told it will be corrected.

    But the TNTP has had plenty of opportunities for editing. And they also had plenty of time for editing their previous report on the NYC Teacher Reserve. Why don’t they try harder to get their reports accurate BEFORE they publish them, and start their spin with inaccurate data?

    They want teachers to have only one day to defend themselves?

    The TNTP has it backwards. They are the widget masters

  3. Doug Says:

    1983 People! A Nation at Risk! “educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling, and of the high expectations and disciplined effort needed to attain them.”

    Teachers are not the professionals we all claim to be because we are unionized labor with no measure. Have a conversation with a poor teacher…”What can I do? It starts at home? I work so hard. I can’t control their behavior.” It goes on and on!

    Rigor for all creates value on education.

  4. Mark Says:

    This report does a nice job of formally documenting what all conscientious educators already know. Unfortunately, it does not propose or address any practical frameworks for financing or implementing these lofty goals.

    Nevertheless, a step forward.

  5. Michele Says:

    American Education is a very touchy subject for a lot of people, especially educators. I could be wrong when I say this, but I find lately with our economy, money is being thrown in all directions. However, how much has really been thrown in the direction of education. I work in a Charter School which is funded by the state of New Jersey. The past two months I have heard many times that we did not know how much funding the school will receive next year. Instead of sending money to car dealerships, shouldnt we start sending it toward the future of America. All I keep hearing is how teachers do not teach our children. How children are not learning anything in the schools these days. How are we supposed to teach to our greatest abilities if we do not have the resources to do so? I hope America starts changing its priorities very fast or, I personally feel, it is going to be very hard to turn things around.

  6. Erin Says:

    In my experience, this problem begins long before a teacher ever gets hired in a district. Universities are not holding their education students to high enough standards. I graduated from a fairly prestigious college of education in my state, but honestly, they have no problem handing out degrees to anyone willing to pay for one. I graduated with plenty of people that didn’t deserve the same degree I earned. Forget the fact that schools are hiring and keeping ineffective teachers. The bigger question is why are our universities putting the futures of our children in jeopardy by allowing people with 2.0 GPA’s that barely fulfilled the program requirements to exit their programs and work in one of the most important jobs on earth? I remember thinking to myself that I had nothing to worry about in regards to getting a job in Michigan’s tight teaching market. If my “competition” wasn’t willing to write a pretend lesson plan for a grade, how can they be expected to be effective teachers? I received the same education as about 1000 other “teachers.” How can a school possibly know what they are getting in terms of an effective teacher if our universities aren’t telling them otherwise?

  7. Jill K. Says:

    Erin and Mary both made some great points. Mary, you talked about effective teachers versus ineffective teachers at your school. It is amazing that the term “tenure” still exists for education. How can a teacher be tenured, but not be held to the same standards as other teachers? I am at a parochial school, and we do not have tenure. The only way to get promoted is through your years of service. A 1st year teacher was recently “let go” when there are other more ineffective teachers that could have suffered her same fate but have been in the school a lot longer. Mary I thought made an interesting point, universities do not hesitate to give out diplomas, but that does not make you an effective teacher.

  8. Ashley Says:

    As a new teacher, I feel obligated to speak out of pure experience. It is a sad world when you have to “know someone” even to get an interview. You might be better than 100 other candidates, but will not be given the time of day unless you have the “in”. If you are lucky to get an interview, you are given a small amount of time to get your teaching style across through a drill of questions. Let’s say you’ve made it this far now you have your probation period to prove how good you are.
    I couldn’t agree more with Mary who said it is easier to, “fly under the radar” than stand out. I’m finding that I took on too much my first year teaching and can honestly say I’m concerned about my own burnout. Now that I have proven myself effective, I am constantly asked to be on committees, pick up extra tutoring, and become the leader of colleagues. Yet, I make the least amount of money, spend the most time at school and my job is on the line because I’m not ‘tenured’. It’s a sad world economically when I started a master’s degree to move myself up on the seniority list because I am scared of job cuts.

  9. Liza Says:

    Doug brings up an excellent point that “Rigor for all creates value on education.” National standards for teacher evaluation should be effective and fair in recommending excellent teachers to help student achievement. The focus should remain on rigorous standards for students and teachers as well. Teachers must uphold to the Continuum of Teacher development standards in meeting expertise teaching. Formal evaluations should assess standards of the teaching profession on the basis that skills are integrated and applied into the classroom. This level of assessment will help to avoid low expecations for teachers. As a novice teacher, I am shocked that ineffective teachers are allowed to continue to harm student achievement.

  10. Steve Peha Says:

    The TNTP report is fundamentally flawed — but in a very revealing way. In its findings, the report says nothing about the training teachers receive before they enter the profession, their student teaching experiences, or the kind of schooling they were exposed to as kids. Yet these are the three most significant experiences that shape a teacher’s beliefs, attitude, and early effectiveness. Then, in their recommendations, they say nothing about how teachers are selected to enter the profession at the college level nor how (poorly) our colleges train them. What I find fascinating is TNTP commits the “Widget Effect” themselves. If they saw teachers as people, they’d study the personal factors that are most powerful in shaping those who become teachers. Instead, TNTP has merely produced a study of the “Widget Factory” that employs them. We treat teachers like widgets because we don’t want to treat them like human beings. And we don’t want to treat them like human beings because that would cause us to have to reevaluate many painful and expensive things about our education system. Teachers, too, play a role in their own “widgetization” by working far in excess of their contracts and by being actively complicit in the shaping of a culture they already know to be dysfunctional. Unfortunately, TNTP’s recommendations don’t address those issues either.

  11. Stacey Says:

    I am also shocked that teachers can continue teaching even though they are not effective and the building and such knows it.

    Someone posted earlier that they are a newer teacher and take on the extra tasks and duties that more experienced teachers will not pick up. I am in my 4th year of teaching and I have also fallen into that pattern. It always seems to be the same teachers doing all the extras but yet others get paid more because of their “experience” or years of service. Why are these teachers getting double of what I make? I don’t have a solution to the problem but I think the leaders of Education need to take a long hard look at who they are rewarding and how they are rewarding teachers.

  12. Ernie Says:

    I agree with Stacy regarding the issue of ineffective teachers that continue to be in the classroom and making the money. In addition, Administration is aware of the fact and there’s really nothing that can be done unless the ineffective teacher is evaluated out. Administrators have the option of doing so, but the process is lengthy and documentation is endless. Few administrators do take the initiative to evaluate a teacher out, but the challenges with the union and the school board is also a nightmare and both must be convinced the teacher is not meeting the minimum teaching requirements in the classroom. But it can be done.

  13. Mary Says:

    I am amazed that so many people feel the same way.

    As Erin stated, in my experience, I was unprepared for teaching my first year. How often does one graduate from college and immediately expect to be experts in their field without having practical experience? Student teaching does not count in my mind, because you are not running your own classroom. I, literally, may use one or two pointers from my entire college education classes!

    Stacy, in my opinion, there is an easy way to “fix” the problem of teachers not being effective and compensated for their extra tasks: merit-based raises! Why is it in every other occupation (outside government jobs) does one receive a raise based on how well they perform? Does it not make sense to do the same with our educational systems? We hold student’s accountable by how well they perform, why not teachers as well?

    I also think Steve Peha made an excellent point. We, as educators (myself DEFINITELY included), enable the districts and states to keep doing this because we work far in excess of our contracts! I know that I do this on a regular basis. However, if I don’t, it’s not those people in power that suffer, it’s my students. They are who I work for.

  14. Erin Says:

    It sounds like we all agree that there are too many ineffective teachers out there, but with tenure, contracts, and seniority, there’s not much we can do about it. “The Widget Effect” points out the flaws in teacher evaluation systems, but honestly, I don’t wait for my principal to tell me I’m doing a good job and that I’m teaching effectively. The only person who knows whether or not I’m being effective in my classroom is me. I know how my students react and respond to my teaching, and I’m the only one who can make the change in my classroom to do what is best for my students. As I commit myself to being a lifelong learner, to building positive relationships with my students, by being completely honest with myself, I will maintain my highest level of professionalism. This will result in effectiveness in the classroom. Like Mary said, it’s the students we work for. All we can do is do what is in the best interest of our students, no matter how ineffective others are being in their classrooms.

  15. Michelle F. Says:

    I agree with many of the respondents. I am currently working in a grade level that shows an outrageous level of apathy and disregard for standards and data. More energy is spent on complaints about the students’ limitations than looking at the reasons why they are limited. As a newer teacher (4th yr) I find this frustrating. Many of these ladies will tell you that they have been doing this for 16-25 years. There is no willingness (or knowledge of how to) reflect, adjust, adapt curriculum or change methods to fit the needs of our students. I am not a young, uninformed teacher…this is my second career and I am as old or older than some of my colleagues. It is nice to see that there is an awareness of how much ineffectiveness is out there.
    One of my neighboring districts has begun to address this problem due to recent issues. The application / interview process has become much more rigorous to “weed out” ineffective teachers. Many of those who interview well and look great on paper do not make great teachers. After the app/ interview process, potential candidates are asked to come in and write a goal/ mission/ philosopy statement and then be interviewed again about their responses. They are required to teach 2 to 3 lessons on prescribed content while a panel evaluates their technique. This increased “policing” of candidates may be helping to avoid the hiring of ineffective teachers. I agree with Erin that my job is to go in and do the best job I can to prepare my kids for a successful future. Being a lifelong learner is crucial! Times change, kids change, methods change… so should we!

  16. Kim Gaines Says:

    Teacher recruitmen in staffing and effectiveness seem to go hand in hand. When school districts go worldwide to recruit teachers, they are being chosen based on experience in their native lands. However, they have little knowledge of the cultures they are coming into. They tend to expect things to be as they are in their countries. Principals often are not given much of a choice. Districts select the teachers and principals are sent teachers to fill classrooms. When a teacher is ineffective, it is not an easy task to remove them from the classroom. Students are the ones who suffer the most.

  17. Erin Says:

    Kim is absolutely right. The students are the ones that are suffering the most. I just found out today that a position in my district is being eliminated, which means a close friend is going to lose her job because she has the lowest seniority. That sad thing is, she does her job better than most others in our district. If things were based on merit, she would be the last person to lose her job. What is the point in teacher evaluations if the most effective teachers are the first to go? I think one of the biggest problems in education is that we’re all so compassionate and empathetic that we have a hard time being honest with one another, even our administrators don’t want to make waves. If I do a bad job, I want to know about it. I hope I never become a teacher that relies on my tenure and I honestly hope my district gets rid of me if I’m not being effective. After all, I’m not teaching for me, I’m teaching for the kids.

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