Treating Different Teachers Differently: How State Policy Should Act on Differences in Teacher Performances to Improve Teacher Effectiveness and Equity

Tim Hoffine

Center for American Progress
By Robin Chait and Raegen Miller
March 2010 

Robust data systems, performance-based professional standards, and rigorous evaluation systems are three components Ohio can use to create better “infrastructure” to support recruiting, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers.  That’s the latest from Center for American Progress’s Treating Different Teachers Differently, a report calling for state and local policymakers to reconsider how to:

  • encourage the most effective teachers to stay in the profession;
  • leverage the talents and reach of the most effective teachers;
  • discourage the least effective from remaining in the profession and dismiss chronically ineffective teachers; and
  • improve the performance of all teachers and thus improve student outcomes.

Ohio’s teacher policies were a major reason the state didn’t win first round Race to the Top funding, but there room for hope. Ohio was recently lauded by Education Week for last year’s budget bill that pushed teacher tenure until after the seventh year of employment. Gov. Strickland also introduced an innovative plan for teacher residencies, though the devil is in the details and it remains to be seen how useful they will be for improving teacher effectiveness. The Buckeye State can go further by rethinking the frequency and substance of teacher evaluations and by including some form of student performance metrics in evaluations.

Treating Different Teachers Differently doesn’t mask the complexity of these issues. Opponents of performance pay make good points about whether a test can capture a teacher’s (and student’s) entire performance. In a recent Ohio Gadfly guest editorial, researcher Doug Clay explained flaws within Ohio’s value-added system and cautioned how it should be used.

Still, this shouldn’t stand in the way of figuring out how performance-based data can serve as one of several metrics in decisions around retaining, rewarding, or dismissing teachers.  Data on student and teacher performance isn’t about rooting out those pesky teachers who won’t teach to the test.  Accurate data can actually help teachers determine which of their methods are most effective, rather than punishing them for ones that aren’t.  Read it here.