The quest to identify and reward the most effective teachers marches on, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and nationally.
This week the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released results of a three-year study of effective teaching, which relied on volunteers from CMS and six other districts (read the report here). Researchers set out to test the belief that teacher ratings based on student test scores can provide meaningful predictions about teachers' ability to help students learn.
The conclusion was yes -- but that such "value-added" ratings should count for only one-third to one-half of the overall evaluation. Classroom observations (preferably done by more than one person) and student surveys should account for the rest, according to the Measures of Effective Teaching study.
The researchers used test-score ratings to identify top teachers in 2009-10, then randomly assigned students to participating teachers in 2010-11. Sure enough, teachers with higher ratings got better results with a different batch of students, not just on the state exams used to calculate the ratings but on "more cognitively challenging assessments." The researchers discovered that they got the best predictions of success on the tougher exams when they added the other factors.
State lawmakers invited all districts to submit such plans, House said. Since November, he said, CMS has had 40 to 50 teachers and principals working on proposal. At this point, House said, it's unclear whether those proposals will be simply be taken under advisement by state officials or might be approved as district pilots.
This is the third time in three years CMS has recruited teachers to offer advice on transforming evaluations and rewards. Former Superintendent Peter Gorman had teacher panels advising him on pay for performance, which met with significant resistance from faculty and families. Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh rounded up more volunteers to work on what he dubbed the Talent Effectiveness Project, which moved the focus away from pay (in part because there was no money available).
Now Superintendent Heath Morrison has created a Compensation Task Force as one of 22 panels that will advise him in the next six months. House said the employee volunteers who are already at work will be joined by community members.
For all the discussions, research and renaming, this remains a thorny topic. I heard about Battelle's involvement from a teacher who got a copy of an online teacher survey the group just completed. This teacher was wary of an Ohio-based group that seems to be pushing "teacher effectiveness" and "strategic compensation," which struck her as the latest names for performance pay.
"The survey seems skewed to make a traditional step-and-level pay system seem unfair," the teacher emailed. "I don't think that is true. I like the pay-scale system because it guarantees that you will make [x] amount of money whether you are having an awesome year teaching or not. As teachers we have good years and bad years. It would be nice to have some kind of bonus for years that you have an exceptional year. However those years can be due to so many independent variables. With 'strategic compensation' I don't think those variables are appreciated enough."
If you've got ideas about teacher compensation or any of the other topics that are being tackled by the CMS task forces, the district has launched an online suggestion form to channel the ideas.