A new report from The New Teacher Project (TNTP), focused on the need to keep good teachers, who they call "irreplaceable", is posted here.
In a press release, Bloomberg used its release as an occasion to push his proposal for a $20K bonus for high-performers that he first mentioned in his State of the City address last winter, and blamed the UFT for blocking it:
The study released today by TNTP – and which New York City participated in – confirms that school districts across the country must do more to keep great teachers in our classrooms. That’s exactly why we have offered to add a $20,000 annual stipend to the salaries of teachers who are rated highly effective for two consecutive years.
This press release omits several prominent facts:
- Teacher merit pay was tried already in NYC and failed to show results;
- He didn’t propose a penny for it in the executive budget and provided no funding for it.
Yet again, the corporate reformers are trying to recycle the same old wasteful ideas though they have already been tried and failed, over again.
The TNTP report has many flaws, including identifying “irreplaceable” teachers through growth in student test scores, which is highly unreliable. (See for example, in my piece in today's NYT Room for Debate on this very issue.) In three out of the four districts, they use only one year’s change in scores, even more volatile; and essentially unable to identify which “irreplaceable” teachers will be high-performers the following year.
As the Shanker Blog points out, if you were going by NYC’s Teacher Data Reports, as many as 40% of the “irreplaceables” in NYC would be considered “replaceable” the next year.
The TNTP also report pushes merit pay though there is absolutely no research or support among teachers for its. See for example, this Gates-funded national survey:
- 73% of teachers disagreed that state tests provide an “accurate reflection of student achievement”;
- 64% said that student scores on standardized tests should be used only “a slight amount” or “not at all” in evaluating teachers.
- Only 16% of teachers thought pay tied to teachers’ performance was “essential” or “very important”, with 49% saying it was not all important, and 36% saying it was somewhat important.
Compare this with the 90% of teachers who responded that having fewer students in a class would have a “very strong” or “strong” impact on improving student achievement.
The TNTP report says their own survey showed that working conditions are crucial in retaining good teachers, which is indeed true, but then doesn’t identify which working conditions teachers pointed to as critical (and of course, does not mention class size anywhere.)
The report also pushes weakening seniority protections and tenure, saying this would help schools retain the “irreplaceables,” but does not mention if the teachers surveyed said this would help (which I doubt.)
For example, in the Gates-funded survey, 84% of teachers agreed with this statement: “Teacher tenure protects teachers from unfairly losing their jobs.”
Interestingly, the TNTP report itself implies that it would be relatively easy for principals to get low-performing teachers to leave:
“Our research indicates that principals are capable of ushering low- performers out by simply being candid with them about their performance and fit in the school. In one district, teachers whose principals encouraged them to leave…were nearly three times more likely to leave.” (p. 17)
So why weaken seniority protections and/or tenure? The report also says,
Although the primary responsibility for building and nurturing school culture rests with individual principals, district leaders play an important role too. For example, they can survey teachers and students regularly to ensure that principals have regular actionable information about the gaps in their schools’ culture and working conditions. (p. 18).
Accordingly, the mayor should address the poor working conditions that drive teachers away from our schools, many of them who leave to work in the suburbs or in private schools where class sizes are smaller.
Of course, 86% of NYC principals already say that the class sizes in their schools are too large for them to provide a quality education. Clearly, it is the primary responsibility of the Bloomberg administration for imposing system-wide policies that deny principals the ability to reduce them.
In conclusion, quoting the TNTP report, “Retaining as many Irreplaceables as possible requires a shared commitment from school and district leaders to address working conditions that can drive great teachers away.”