Teach For America's new book offers timely data on teacher effectiveness

???Teacher effectiveness??? has made its way to the top of the education policy agenda, supplanting the focus on ???highly qualified??? teachers from No Child Left Behind and treading into the dangerous (but necessary) territory of measuring effectiveness, in part, with student test scores. President Obama and Secretary Duncan's decision to use the language of teacher ???effectiveness??? in the application for the federal $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants (with student growth a ???significant factor??? in measuring teacher effectiveness ) was no small shift. We'll find out soon how serious Obama and Duncan are about ensuring ???great teachers and leaders??? ??? the RttT category worth almost a third of the application points -- as first round finalists will be announced next week.

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda Gates have their sights set on the concept of teacher effectiveness as well, investing $290 million in four cities that are developing ???groundbreaking plans to improve teacher effectiveness.??? And just to be sure we all know what effectiveness means, they're pumping another $45 million into the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an initiative that will gather data on 3,700 teachers and try to create a more precise definition of effective teaching. (The MET project will use a variety of data including student surveys, teacher surveys, and videotaped teacher observations ??? sounds a lot like the teacher training program at Hunter College that was formed by the infamous trio of highly-performing charter schools [KIPP, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First]).

For anyone just as excited by and interested in growing consensus that measuring teacher excellence is possible, and in the search for more data to lend precision to the definition of teacher effectiveness, you would be remiss not to read Teach For America's new book, Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher's Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap. With nearly two decades of data on more than 17,000 teachers, the book is based on TFA's internal findings as to what distinguishes its most highly effective teachers from the rest.

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As a TFA alumna, I recall large portions of the ???Teaching as Leadership??? (TAL) framework from heart (or at least an older least iteration of it) because it served as part of our curriculum. My first encounter with TAL occurred during afternoon-long sessions at a coffee shop in 2005, between college graduation and moving to the East Coast to begin my teaching stint in Camden, New Jersey. I had just two weeks to ingest the formulas for extraordinary teaching before heading to Summer Institute (TFA's five-week boot camp)??? Five years ago when I first came across TAL, I didn't fully appreciate the magnitude of these principles, or that only by living and breathing by them would I be able to succeed as a novice and live up to the difficult tasked placed in front of me. But I remain convinced by the power of Teaching as Leadership to recruit, evaluate, and develop extraordinary teachers. Read my full review of Teaching as Leadership in yesterday's edition of the Ohio Education Gadfly, or check out the book here.

--Jamie Davies O'Leary

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