We have some very good evidence that teachers vary quite a bit in terms of their effectiveness in improving student achievement. We also have good evidence that the current certification process doesn’t do a good job of tracking effectiveness—certified teachers are no more effective than teachers who’ve come through “alternative certification” tracks. It’s also clear that our policies don’t reward more-effective teachers in a manner that’s consistent with the importance of retaining highly-effective teachers to building a highly effective school. Nor do our policies do anything to try to ensure that highly effective teachers can be found in the schools with the highest-need students. On the contrary, they tend to do the reverse. These basic points—and the idea that we ought to change things—have been penetrating mainstream consciousness of late. But it’s often not clear exactly what policy shifts will make it possible to obtain and use data on teacher effectiveness, especially because education policy gets made at a lot of different levels.
Yesterday, CAP released an excellent report from Robin Chait that recaps what we know and goes step-by-step through the issue of how federal policy could help support the idea of shifting from a system based on qualifications to a system based on effectiveness.
One interesting issue is whether Republicans will show any interest in these kind of things as we move toward re-authorization of NCLB/ESEA. The last version of the bill was really the only significant bipartisan initiative of the Bush years—a meeting of minds between George W. Bush on the one hand, and Ted Kennedy and George Miller on the other. And many conservative intellectuals are interested in this stuff, in no small part because teacher’s unions don’t much care for it. But in recent years, conservative politicians have more-or-more retreated to local control bromides and the current crop of GOP congressmen seems more Limbaughized than ever before.