Overhauling how we recruit, support, evaluate and reward teachers: Where to start?

The topic of teacher effectiveness has taken center stage in national conversations about education reform. Educators and policymakers clash on how to measure “effectiveness,” and School Improvement Grants and other federal dollars have been tied to the idea of firing poorly performing teachers and rewarding those who already do well.

But many have argued that we can’t be so narrow-minded when we look at a teacher’s effectiveness, saying we can’t just get rid of all the teachers we don’t like. (In the words of George Walker, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, you can’t just fire your way to better schools.) Instead, as California’s 2009 Teacher of the Year argues, we need to work on making all teachers better. This viewpoint has been present in the debate, but it often seems as though the question of how to improve all teachers’ effectiveness is overshadowed by the constant back-and-forth about how best to measure effectiveness, and then what to do with those measurements.

It’s this middle perspective — looking at how to improve all teachers — that the Joyce Foundation addresses in its recently unveiled website, Teacher Quality: What You Need to Know. Complete with a guidebook, Improving Teacher Quality: Here’s How, the site isn’t just for teachers and administrators. It’s also aimed at parents, policymakers and community leaders, the foundation says. (Disclosure: The Hechinger Report counts the Joyce Foundation among its many funders.)

Looking at a range of research and strategies – and arguing that no single tactic will change everything – the new site argues that “we need to improve how we recruit, support, evaluate and reward teachers to get the best teaching for kids who need it most.”