What is the definition of “teacher effectiveness?”
Our definition is this: An effective teacher ensures that each child learns at least a year’s worth of knowledge for every year spent in the classroom.
Do we really need 25,000 new teachers in the next 10 years? Aren't there too many teachers in the pipeline right now?
There are currently more than 50,000 teachers in the three states. Within the next 10 years, half of them are projected to leave teaching or retire. The teacher candidates entering programs now will be ready to teach in two to five years. Although current trends and circumstances are likely to impact that number to some degree, new teachers, in high demand fields and high need geographical areas, will still be needed.
How are you going to recruit the best people to be teachers if fundamental changes aren’t made to how teachers are paid and to the learning environment of the schools in which they work?
This is a very important issue. Our research shows the “Change Maker” is the type of person who is most likely to be attracted to and successful at teaching. We also know how important a supportive school environment is to retaining new teachers. The new teachers who come out of our partners’ teacher-preparation programs will be guaranteed to be effective, so P-12 schools can be confident that their investment will be worthwhile. At the same time, we are asking the schools to guarantee that they will support the new teachers with an environment that enables them to be successful.
How can you tell if a teacher is effective?
While there is currently no consistent measurement of student achievement across the three states, we are working with researchers to identify those measures and develop them into assessment tools. Teachers across the three states will be able to use these tools several times a year to ensure that their teaching is reaching the desired outcome: that students are gaining at least a year’s worth of knowledge for every year spent in the classroom and that they are on track to earn a degree after high school.
Is improving teacher effectiveness the only way to increase student achievement? What about factors like poverty or lack of parental involvement—don’t those also affect students negatively?
Many factors affect student achievement including the curriculum, length of the school day/year, pre-K readiness, parental engagement, etc. Research shows that effective teaching is the most important school-related factor in increasing educational achievement. Many other organizations are working on other factors that impact a student’s ability to show up in the classroom ready to learn. We think the best way we can help students is by making sure an effective teacher is in the classroom ready to meet the student at whatever achievement level he or she has already reached. The effective teacher will apply considerable teaching skills to ensure the student continues to gain at least one year of knowledge for every year spent in the classroom.
You say you’re going to increase the percentage of students on track to earn a degree post-high school by 50 percent. What number are you starting from?
When we originally set the goal in 2008, only about 25 percent of students across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota earned a degree after high school. That figure was based on data from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Our goal is to increase that base percentage by at least 50 percent, or have at least 37.5 percent of students on track to earn a degree after high school by 2020.
Is the teacher training different for pre-K vs. high school teachers?
Curriculum content is different for teachers who work with students at different age levels, as is the pedagogy – the art and science of teaching. The effectiveness measures being developed, however, will serve teachers at all levels, so a pre-K teacher is as effective at teaching the ABCs as a high school math teacher is at teaching juniors trigonometry.
What is your strategy for eliminating the achievement disparities among different ethnic groups?
Research shows that effective teachers are able to improve outcomes for all students, raise the achievement of low performing students and close the achievement gap. In addition, the tools the Foundation is creating for teachers to use in assessing their students will mean that teachers will be able to spot students who are falling behind more quickly and give them the additional attention and support they need to improve.
Some school districts are in poor communities and can’t afford the educational systems that rich communities can. Do you have a plan for helping students in those poor communities?
We are working with partners whose plans encompass the unique challenges faced by schools in poor and rural communities. Whether rich or poor, any community’s investment in effective teachers for its children will pay back benefits that will change the community. The future vitality of cities and towns across Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota will depend greatly on the ability of its future workers to compete in a global economy.
Our school district has students that speak many different languages. Isn’t that a hurdle teacher effectiveness can’t address?
Effective teachers are effective for all students, including using techniques to communicate with students whose first language is not English. The growing diversity of our schools is a fact and an opportunity – it allows us to engage in the increasingly global village that our communities have become. Our partner programs have set ambitious goals and are embarking on remarkable changes to their curricula to ensure that the teachers they develop will be able to help all learners reach their potential.
What about other high needs areas (special education, ELL, science and math)?
Our research showed that about 32 percent of the passionate, motivated young people who are likely to be driven to the teaching profession indicated a preference to teach math and science. Beyond that, we are aware of areas of particularly high need, and are working to ensure our preparation programs are able to effectively prepare teachers to work in these areas.
My children’s school could use better teachers. How can we hire one of these effective teachers?
We think that once the word gets out of how these new, effective teachers are engaging their students and driving student achievement, every school will want to hire them. Encourage your school to investigate our teacher-preparation partners, talk to other parents about the Foundation’s goal and strategy and lead the drive to ensure that your child is one whose future will be brighter because he or she had an effective teacher.
What if I want to be a teacher, but I'm currently enrolled at a school that's not part of NExT?
Our hope is that new teachers who come out of a NExT partner school will have tools and support available to them guaranteeing their success, and as a result schools will feel confident making an investment in hiring these teachers. Even if you are enrolled at a non-participating school, we encourage you to learn more about the program and about teacher effectiveness, and see where you can incorporate ideas from the program into your preparation or apply concepts to your efforts to become a great teacher.
Do you believe that only people with certain characteristics can become great teachers?
Our research shows that certain types of people are more likely to be drawn to the teaching profession and to be effective teachers. We call these people Change Makers. They are ambitious and have a strong desire to improve peoples’ lives and make a difference in the world. Change Makers are strongly represented amongst today’s college students, a key audience for our teacher-preparation programs.