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This Week in PubHub: Education: Teacher Effectiveness and Leadership

May 05, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she wrote about the environment and clean energy economy.)

May is Funding for Education Month at the Foundation Center, and PubHub is highlighting various aspects of education reform. This week's featured reports address teacher effectiveness and school leadership development.

In 2009, Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation surveyed 40,000 teachers in all grades about the challenges they face and the best ways to improve student achievement and preparedness. According to Primary Sources: America's Teachers on America's Schools, the solutions include establishing clear, common academic standards across states; using multiple measures to evaluate student performance; engaging students with differentiated assignments and new technologies; accurately measuring teacher performance and offering non-monetary rewards to retain effective teachers; and bridging the gap between school and home.

Empowering Effective Teachers: Strategies for Implementing Reforms (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), a new issue brief from the Gates Foundation, describes the promising efforts of nine school districts and a coalition of charter management organizations to implement strategies designed to improve teacher effectiveness. They include the adoption of meaningful, multi-dimensional measures of effectiveness; evaluation tools and processes that inform professional development; a more rigorous tenure process; differentiated compensation and career pathways; and incentives for placing effective teachers where they are needed most.

The Mott-funded Rethinking the Teacher Pipeline for an Urban Public School System (Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University) looks at the problem of high turnover among teachers and finds a possible solution in community-based organizing. As this case study of a statewide "grow your own" teacher pipeline strategy shows, community groups working with district officials, school principals, teacher unions, and others can create successful teacher-preparation programs for paraprofessionals and community residents, while enhancing equity and expanding parents' and the community's role in improving teacher quality.

The need for collaborative efforts aimed at improving performance applies to principals as well as teachers. The Wallace Foundation's theory is that coordinating the development of leadership standards, high-quality training, and the conditions that affect principals' work (such as access to data and sufficient resources) will lead to improvements in school leadership and teacher quality. Improving School Leadership: The Promise of Cohesive Leadership Systems (RAND Corporation) documents promising efforts by the foundation's grantees to work together to create a "cohesive leadership system" involving state authorities, local districts, and principal preparation programs. Successful strategies for building cohesive systems include building trust, creating formal and informal networks, fostering communications, exerting pressure and influence, promoting improved leadership policies and initiatives, building capacity for the work, identifying individuals with political and social capital to lead the work, and connecting to other reform efforts.

There are, of course, many other approaches to improving instructional effectiveness, not to mention the many other components of school reform. Over the next three weeks, PubHub will feature reports on performance management and data sharing, college readiness, and education philanthropy. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, and other readings in the comments section. And let us know what your priorities for educational reform would be.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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