Teacher Effectiveness Lessons from Abroad

October 7th, 2010

Category: News

Select U.S. Education policymakers recently had the opportunity to learn from systems in Finland, Singapore, and Ontario at a meeting hosted by The Alliance for Excellent Education, led by former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, led by Linda Darling-Hammond.  Each of these country’s (or, in the case of Ontario, province’s) education system has improved significantly in recent years, ranking in the top of OECD countries on PISA , and attributes their progress to teacher and leader effectiveness efforts.

All three noted the stark contrast in their developmental approach to teacher evaluation, compared with the US focus on accountability. Finland’s representative even expressed concern that his country might adopt the data-driven, accountability approach taken in many other countries that they have – so far – been able to avoid. And Ontario noted that the language of “accountability” is like a foreign language. Instead, these representatives emphasized a culture of achievement, learning, professionalism, and responsibility, and challenged U.S. policymakers to embrace a similar model – where such a focus on accountability would not be needed.

Themes put forward by Finland, Singapore, and Ontario echoed recommendations most agree with in education policy, many of which are included in Delaware’s Race to the Top plan (links refer to the page in the plan where this element is addressed): additional pay for additional responsibilities for teachers, more time to collaborate, greater leadership focus on instruction, and high-quality professional development.

However, the details of these how to achieve many other recommendations commitments aren’t directly included in the plan: higher criteria for entry into the profession, accountability for higher education preparation programs, reduced workload for new teachers, and assignment of teachers based on system needs. Other states have begun tackling these issues, such as Rhode Island’s higher bar for teacher preparation programs, and Louisiana’s reporting on program effectiveness.

The international guests noted that the U.S. has more resources that these countries, particularly our education research community, from which they benefit. The difference, they say, is that theyour research—and such is our challenge. apply the findings of our research – and such is our challenge.

Madeleine Bayard




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