Teacher "Quality" Turns to Teacher "Effectiveness"

By Peter McWalters and Circe Stumbo (guest bloggers)

The national debate around teacher policy has been shifting away from a focus on teacher quality (as measured by inputs such as credentials and years of experience) toward teacher effectiveness (as measured by outcomes such as teacher performance and student achievement and growth). Much of the public discourse has raised challenges across the system—the most common being the challenge of linking teacher performance with student assessment data. Often overlooked, however, are the added complexities at the high school level.

The biggest challenge for high schools is that currently available state-level measures of student achievement are inadequate. Right now, summative statewide exams typically are only administered once during the high school grade span. More importantly, because teaching typically is organized by specialized content areas in high schools, evaluation systems that will rely on statewide standardized exams as a significant measure of effectiveness leave out large numbers of high school teachers who do not teach tested subjects.

The U.S. Department of Education is encouraging advances in this area in its proposals for the reauthorization of ESEA and in the Race to the Top program. In addition to state Race to the Top grants, ED is investing $350 million in enhanced assessment consortia to create new measures of student achievement that can be used in evaluation systems. Of that total amount, $30 million is specifically devoted to developing high school course assessment programs. Winners will be announced in September, but only one consortium applied for the high school-specific funds.

States also are moving forward on policies that lay the groundwork for the teacher effectiveness agenda. This week, the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) released model core teaching standards, which can be used to provide clear definitions of effective practice upon which teacher and principal evaluations can be built. These standards, however, are not broken down by grade level. We are looking for reflections from the field about whether the draft core teaching standards provide enough of a definition of effective practice at the high school level to be used for evaluation. We encourage you to consider these new standards and voice your support and/or concerns before October 15 by completing the public comment survey.

(Editors' note: The National High School Center will continue to track and share updates on teacher evaluation and student assessment as it relates to high schools.)


Peter McWalters is interim strategic initiative director for education workforce at the Council of Chief State School Officers and former Commissioner of Education for the state of Rhode Island.  Circe Stumbo is president of West Wind Education Policy Inc. and is consulting with CCSSO on their systems change work.  (Circe also is on the editorial team for this blog.) Peter and Circe are two of the co-authors of the discussion paper State Policy Implications of the Model Core Teaching Standards.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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