This post is a part of the ASCD Forum conversation “how do we define and measure teacher and principal effectiveness?” To learn more about the ASCD Forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
How do we give students across the globe equitable access to effective teachers and principals?
Thinking about this structurally, there seems to be three ways which we could give students this access. We could "clean house," we could go "grass roots," or districts could focus on developing internal capacity. This third option seems to hold the most promise in my eyes.
"Cleaning house" to me first assumes there are a wide range of teachers and leaders out there of varying abilities. If we could only find an objective method- apply a rubric say- to weed out those that don't meet the standard, we could rid education of all those low performers. We need to apply objective standards, ISLLC 2008 for principals for example, but cleaning house in isolation won't be very effective. To start, take a look at NY for the challenges of implementing just such a system. And we'd have to have superintendents and principals take the drastic step of dismissing friends and colleagues. And the field would be left with plenty of vacancies to fill.
"Grass roots" would be a reinvention of our teacher and leadership training programs. In NY, this is just starting to happen. In the SUNY system, conversations have just begun to leverage Race to the Top funds to redesign the teacher prep programs to make them more rigorous and more experiential. There has even been talk of teachers being required to pass a bar-like exam to be initially certified. For leaders, I know of one SUNY school who is in the process of redesigning the Ed LEadership program from the ground up, complete with real life capstone projects and a two-year cohort model. This is all good work, and the right work, but it is going to take years to reap the benefits of these changes.
To get our students across the globe equitable access, the best way forward is to focus immediately on building internal capacity of our teachers as leaders. Without removing them from the classroom, we should create teacher leaders who can coach, mentor, evaluate, and help improve those colleagues who need the extra help. And without removing them from the buildings, perhaps there is a way we can find a similar "leader of principals" path. Admittedly, that's a taller order. By focusing our efforts on building internal capacity, we gain the advantage of working with the troops on the ground. These peer leaders would also come with a greater level of trust than "the new guy" or "the outside expert." Perhaps, most importantly, if we want to give all students access to effective teachers and principals, if this is something we believe in, shouldn't we do this as soon as possible.
I think we can work within our current system fastest.
I'm aware that we need some level of all three of these approaches. We need to weed out these who show consistently poor performers. We also need to prepare our future teachers and leaders differently. And some of the leadership work needs to come from within. But how many different initiatives can we complete effectively? A triple intensity may be too much.
Your thoughts? Is there a fourth path I haven't considered?
This post was originally posted on ASCD Edge.