“Effective teaching is not an individual accomplishment,” said Carroll and Doerr. “High-performing schools need well-qualified teachers and principals, but they don’t become great places to learn until those individuals join forces to create a collaborative learning culture that improves student achievement beyond what even the best of them can accomplish alone. Effective teaching is a team sport.”
Carroll and Doerr also said that high-performing learning teams have a game plan for curriculum and instructional strategies that they develop together and work to improve through collaborative practice and professional coaching.
“They use authentic, real-time assessments to improve their performance, with real-time feedback on the impact of their practice on student learning. Learning teams hold themselves mutually and professionally accountable for their performance. The team is professionally responsible for recruiting and developing its members, it is responsible for evaluating and rewarding its members, and it is responsible for taking corrective action when individual members are falling short of the team’s objectives. This can include supportive professional development and, alternatively, separation from the team when necessary,” said Carroll and Doerr.
NCTAF also emphasizes that effective teaching takes place in, and exploits the power of, a “technology-enabled open learning ecology.”
“As a final point, we emphasize that students must be active members of the learning teams—they are not served by the learning teams, but are participating members of learning teams, with well-defined roles for contributing to and taking responsibility for their own learning,” said Carroll and Doerr.
Antiquated standards is a problem
AEE’s Haynes said state education leaders must understand how their state standards shape teaching.
“Research shows that teaching has been constrained by the design of state standards and tests that reinforce 20th-century schooling, where the teacher merely serves as a transmitter of a fixed body of knowledge and information,” Haynes said.
According to Haynes, by adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, states will be able to define fewer, clearer, and higher content standards in English language arts and mathematics.
“The standards will provide teachers with clearer benchmarks to assess students’ progress and a better grasp of the pedagogical practices needed to move the learner to the next level,” she said.
In her policy brief, Haynes also gave a detailed example of how Common Core Standards are different from current state standards.
Recently, the state of Indiana said it was the first state to align its teacher standards with the Common Core standards, in partnership with Pearson.
“A 2006 Brookings Institute study found that having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap,” said Tony Bennett, superintendent of public instruction in Indiana. “We are confident that these new teacher standards will lead to higher-quality instruction and improved achievement for all Indiana students.”
One-shot professional assessments aren’t enough
A hallmark of good teaching is using formative assessments to measure student growth, said Haynes, but schools also must use different methods to measure teacher effectiveness that go beyond simple test scores.
According to Haynes, today’s evaluation systems must move beyond focusing on methodologies that identify “good” and “bad” teachers for purposes of reward or dismissal. Schools can do this by using longitudinal data systems and formative assessments.
A modern “value-added” methodology incorporates “complex statistical techniques to determine the contribution of teachers” to student learning, she said. “… Experts recommend using at least three years of test results to generate reliable estimates of teacher effects, since rating year-to-year tends to be unstable.”
Haynes also said that most researchers recommend using multiple measures of student learning over time to determine teacher effectiveness and identify the quality of traditional and nontraditional teacher education and professional development programs.
Solving the problem
Implementing better teacher preparation programs, bolstering school support, integrating better standards that incorporate higher-order thinking skills, and creating better professional assessments are good ideas in theory, but experts say that effective teaching needs federal backing in order to change theory to practice.
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