Since 2010, The Hechinger Report has been taking an in-depth look at efforts to improve teacher effectiveness. What’s the best way to identify a good teacher? Should test scores be used to hire and fire teachers? How is the role of a school principal changing? Are schools improving as a result of the new efforts? Our reporters are asking these and other critical questions in states that are leading the reforms, including Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee and Indiana.



Latest stories in the series

Ronald Thorpe

Investing in the teaching profession

By Ronald Thorpe

The school year has begun for children and teachers; it also needs to begin for Congress. At the core of the federal government’s small but vital role in Pre-K-12 education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). First introduced in 1965 at a time when our national leaders wanted to act on their belief […]

Indiana ponders new measuring stick for student teachers

By Stephanie Wang

Kneeling on the classroom floor, student teacher Adam Samuels helps second-graders count Goldfish crackers and paper clips. Sure, this lesson quizzes the students on their math skills — but it’s also a test of Samuels’ ability to teach.

Indiana University, Bloomington (Photo by Justin Kern)

Indiana universities rethink student teaching

By Sarah Butrymowicz

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — On her last day of student teaching, Kirsten Smock was trying to guide her first-graders at West Terrace Elementary School through a lesson about fractions. She put up a picture of a circle divided in thirds, with one piece shaded green, and prompted students to describe the image. She wanted students to […]

Katie Bonfiglio, a 9th grade English Teacher at Arlington High School is part of a nationwide push underway to dramatically improve teacher training and evaluation through recording classes, then reviewing critiquing the footage. Arlington uses video routinely in teacher training and evaluation. Here she teaches her (Michelle Pemberton/The Star)

Teachers on screen: Video could be key tool

By Scott Elliott

For Marcus Robinson, the CEO of EdPower, videotaping teachers started out as just a way to solve a nagging student-teacher classroom conflict. EdPower runs two charter schools and last summer began managing Arlington after the state took the school over from Indianapolis Public Schools, citing six years of low test scores.

Student growth: Teachers must show proof

By Sarah Butrymowicz

Lesa Worthington, a third-grade teacher at Greensburg Elementary School, keeps a green folder on her desk for paperwork from her evaluation. It holds student data, information about the student learning objectives she had to set and painstakingly detailed notes from the five observations by her principal this year. By late April, the folder was stuffed. […]

Glenda Ritz thanks supporters for coming to her reception. The newly-elected Superintendent of Indiana Department of Public Education surprised students, staff and visitors at Crooked Creek Elementary School, Tuesday, November 27, 2012, by being sworn into office in front of them during an assembly. Ritz who beat Tony Bennett in the election earlier this month, was certified in the position as of noon today. Kelly Wilkinson / The Star

Indiana’s new education chief is changing the game on teacher evaluation

By Scott Elliott and Sarah Butrymowicz

When former Gov. Mitch Daniels and then State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett pushed a massive overhaul of teacher evaluation through the legislature in 2011, the promise was a bold new system that would reward the best teachers, weed out the worst and for the first time tie pay raises to student test scores. […]

At Upper Darby High School, first-year teacher Joe Niagara works with senior Amanda Farina in class while Principal Christopher Dormer (seated, rear) observes and takes notes for Niagara's evaluation. (Photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer)

Lack of time and money as educators launch new teacher evaluations

By Sarah Garland and Rita Giordano

For three years, Kimberly Safran has been on the front lines of the Pittsburgh school district’s push to hold teachers more accountable for student achievement. As co-principal at Brashear High School, a large, economically and racially diverse school on the city’s South Side, she spends most of her time watching teachers in action, taking notes […]

Arthur Levine

Fixing how we train U.S. teachers

By Arthur Levine

This week, the National Council on Teacher Quality issued a report on teacher education in America that looked at 1,130 university programs. While the report overreached in its attempt to rate individual programs because of thin data, in aggregate it presented a deeply disturbing picture of teacher preparation in the United States. It described a […]

Aaron-Pallas

The trouble with NCTQ’s ratings of teacher-prep programs

By Aaron Pallas

Yesterday, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released its first national ratings of teacher-preparation programs. Passing judgment on 1,200 undergraduate and graduate programs across the country—but not other routes to teacher certification, such as Teach For America—NCTQ painted a dismal picture. Only four institutions rated four out of four stars: Furman, Lipscomb, Ohio State […]

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After years of reform, California education schools fall short on new ranking system

By Jackie Mader

California has been trying to reform how it educates teachers for more than a decade, and some of its ideas have become a model for the rest of the country. But the vast majority of teacher preparation programs in California are still failing to adequately prepare teachers, according to a controversial new report released Tuesday […]

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Key reports

Annenberg Institute for School Reform — The Use of Value-Added Measures of Teacher Effectiveness in Policy and Practice

Value-added models have become increasingly popular in today’s policy environment as a way to evaluate, reward, and dismiss teachers.

Brookings Institute — Evaluating Teachers: The Important Role of Value-Added

Six prominent scholars weigh in on the value-added debate, concluding that such data should play an important role in teacher-evaluation systems — but not necessarily in human-resource decisions.

Center for American Progress — Evaluating Effective Teachers

Parents, practitioners, and policymakers agree that the key to improving public education in America is placing highly skilled and effective teachers in all classrooms.

Economic Policy Institute — Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

Every classroom should have a well-educated, professional teacher, and school systems should recruit, prepare, and retain teachers who are qualified to do the job.

Educational Testing Service — Using Student Progress to Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models (PDF)

A layperson’s guide to value-added measures, meant to aid interested parties in deliberations on their appropriate uses.

National Research Council and National Academy of Education — Getting Value Out of Value-Added: Report of a Workshop

A summary of a workshop intended to provide research-based guidance to policymakers by identifying areas of both emerging consensus and disagreement on the appropriate uses of value-added methods.

PACE — Value-Added Measures of Education Performance: Clearing Away the Smoke and Mirrors

A new PACE policy brief by Douglas N. Harris of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explores the use of value-added measures and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of value-added assessment.

The New Teacher Project — Teacher evaluation 2.0

Everyone agrees that teacher evaluations are broken. So how can we fix them? This guide proposes six design standards that any rigorous and fair evaluation system should meet.

U.S. Department of Education — Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance Based on Student Test Score Gains

This paper addresses likely error rates for measuring teacher and school performance in the upper elementary grades using value-added models applied to student test score gain data.