So, the question is: How best to improve teacher effectiveness.
Hanushek's answer is simple: Eliminate the bottom 5% to 8% of teachers.
A very fine idea. However, there are a number of impediments.
- State certification and additional degrees do not correlate with increases in teacher effectiveness. However, many districts have implemented salary differentials based on advanced degrees.
- Two years of classroom experience appears to have zero effect upon teacher performance. Yet, across the United States, 25% of teachers' salaries are allocated toward bonuses for those possessing 2+ years of teaching experience.
- "Last in, first out" laws--which result in the firing of the newest teachers when reductions in force are made--significantly impact the quality of dismissals. Effectiveness-based policies would be better.
- Teachers' unions don't like performance pay, arguing that it demonstrates little influence upon student achievement. Fair enough. But, that doesn't mean salaries have no effect upon teaching. As Hanuskek notes, initial teaching salaries--as well as pattern of salary increases down the road--impact the decision to become a teacher in the first place. Low base salaries don't attract the most qualified candidates.
All of this research indicates that it's time for states to change policy when it comes to teacher effectiveness. For example, tenure was not intended to protect ineffective teachers. What's needed is experimentation with programs that offer the promise of improving and ensuring teacher quality. How about "best in, worst out"?
More importantly, Hanushek notes, research data suggest that American student achievement could rise to the level of achievement in Canada. Practically speaking, American workers would see an average paycheck increase of 20% annually for the the next 80 years.
Let the discussion begin...
To read Eric Hanushek's research, click on the following link:
"We Need Better Teachers."