What is the most important factor that contributes to student success? Teaching.
Educators know this, but implementing practices that support excellent teaching is often harder, especially in school systems that must address myriad issues that frankly go beyond education.
In a recent Asia Society study, Stanford professor and education expert Linda Darling-Hammond examines teacher quality policies in Singapore, Melbourne, and Toronto and offers advice for what policymakers can do to create and sustain high-quality teaching forces.
While much of this report is geared towards systemic changes that enable the development and retention of a high-quality teaching force, Darling-Hammond’s research suggests a variety of school-level policies and practices that can improve instruction and achievement in our schools.
Here are some lessons:
1. Create a school-wide mentoring and coaching system
All three of the cities studied provide mentoring and coaching support to their teachers, especially those who are just beginning their careers. In Ontario, the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) provides supports such as orientation and mentoring over the first four years of a teacher’s career. Through this program, Ontario drove down their once high teacher attrition rate and is now able to retain over 98% of first-year hires.
While we may not be able to change the level of government support that mentoring and coaching receives, we can work to create school-level mentorship and coaching programs. Educators and school leaders can strive to create school-level mentorship programs. Such programs can help educators develop a sense of community at the school-level and hopefully encourage them to continue teaching at the school.
2. Encourage collaborative inquiry
School leaders and educators can also encourage collaborative inquiry in their schools, so that teachers see one another as educational resources and partners. In Singapore, starting during pre-service preparation, teachers are encouraged to share knowledge and collaborate with another. Promoting a culture of collaboration and trust enables educators and school leaders in Singapore to leverage innovative instruction and assessment practices.
This practice of collaborative inquiry can also be adopted at the school level. Educators and school leaders can work together to create a culture that encourages teachers to view one another as peers and resources. They can encourage their peers to share their success stories, highlight to their school community what is working, and spread these successful practices to other teachers and classrooms.
3. Establish more effective performance management and evaluation systems
Teacher performance reviews should not be seen as punitive assessments but rather as formative assessments, evaluating teacher learning and shaping further professional development and learning opportunities for teachers. In Melbourne, school-wide evaluations use multiple sources of feedback to inform individual, team, and collective practice and support educators as they develop a personal professional development plan aligned with their individual and the collective school goals. Such practices drive and enable both individual and collective improvement. At a school-level, educators and school leaders can work together to create more productive evaluation systems. Such evaluation systems can not only promote a stronger sense of community but can also achieve the intended goal of such assessments—improving both student and teacher learning.
4. Cultivate emerging leaders
Another feature of systems with high-quality teaching forces is their focus on career and leadership development. This is also a change that we can adopt at the school-level. Look for educators that are going above and beyond and highlight their efforts. Encourage them to take on leadership positions within the school—whether as leaders in teacher inquiry groups or in more formalized positions as department heads or lead teachers. Make an effort to cultivate people who are helping the school and who you could see leading in the future.
These are all practical changes that can be implemented at the school-level. Educators are education leaders, and as such, anyone can start a movement to support teaching, adopt world-class practices, and ultimately, improve student achievement.
To learn more, directly from Linda-Darling Hammond, please join us at the Partnership for Global Learning Conference June 27*-29, 2013.