Using 11 years of student data in North Carolina, researchers from Harvard and Cornell have found that most value-added achievement gains are attributable to the make-up of teacher teams, not the traits and characteristics of individual teachers. Put another way, the collaboration model—not the lone-teacher-hero model loved by Hollywood and a surprising number of ed-policy wonks—produces the most student growth.
Despite the conventional wisdom posed by some inside-the-Beltway policy analysts, researchers Jackson and Bruegmann found that teaching experience (and qualifications) matter for student learning. Despite the barrage of criticism they have endured in recent years, it turns out that teaching veterans and those who meet standard certification requirements actually promote more academic growth—especially if they are organized for student success.
Now Education Sector, in a terrific new report by Elena Silva, explains why schools can no longer risk isolating teachers. Silva's work also raises serious questions about individualistic merit pay plans.
“The strategic positioning of teachers, where the best ones work among and with the rest, may be as important as formal training or professional development,” she writes.
However, Silva also points out that collaboration doesn’t mean less personal responsibility—that the “team approach doesn’t come at the expense of individualized growth or accountability” and the need continues to identify and reward “the specific contributions and areas of needed improvement of each individual teacher.“
To have the desired impact, new forms of performance pay must be more nuanced and sophisticated than the blunt instruments of the past. They will need, for example, to recognize, encourage and reward teamwork that impacts student learning and teachers who spread their expertise to others.
I’ll admit to some bias, but I think the 2007 TeacherSolutions performance-pay report, penned by 18 expert teachers from our Teacher Leaders Network, describes a powerful framework for paying teachers in ways that matter most for real student learning.
As I read through the new Economic Policy Institute report Redesigning Teacher Pay: A System for the Next Generation of Teachers, I was struck by the many areas of agreement between the work of the 2007 team of classroom teachers and the ideas presented by Susan Moore Johnson and John Papay. That bodes well for the EPI work, I think. The one thing missing in most of the performance-pay schemes to date has been teacher buy-in and support. And without that, no new plan for professional compensation is going to survive for long.