NEA Commission to Members: Reward Effective Teachers

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A new report from the NEA Commission on Teacher Effectiveness, Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learning, includes some promising recommendations. Written by an impressive group of educators, many of whom are active NEA leaders and including 10 past recipients of their respective state National Teacher of the Year awards, the report endorses higher pay for teachers who are deemed “effective,” and those who work in hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-staff positions.

“Advancement in this compensation system is determined neither by time in service nor by graduate degrees,” the report says. The recommendations focus exclusively on peer evaluation as a tool to measure teacher performance and are far too vague on the weight that should be given to objective measures of student achievement. But the report clearly asserts that a teacher’s level of effectiveness should be a key consideration in decisions about school personnel, and that seniority should be used “only when all other factors are equal.”

The commission did not shy away from tackling much-needed reform to the institutions that train our nation’s teachers. “We believe that teacher preparation programs must be judged by the professional qualifications and teaching effectiveness of their graduates, and the quality and substance of the preparation program itself. … [We must] insist that programs be judged by placement rates of their graduates and by their graduates’ impact on student learning and well-being. Programs that fail to meet those standards may be given a reasonable amount of time to improve; those that do not improve must be closed.”

The report also speaks to the need for changes in NEA itself, including a suggestion that the union adopt the goal of improving student learning as a core organizational goal. Its recommendations on reforming teacher preparation, changing teacher compensation, and considering teachers’ effectiveness in staffing decisions appear to stem from the commission’s interest in making sure all students get the great teachers they need and deserve. We hope the NEA listens.

—Sarah Almy