Teach Our Children Well
Published in Inside - Volume X, No. 7
Fulfilling The Promise: Getting High Quality Teachers Into Every New York City Classroom And Keeping Them There
By Joe Levine
A report released today by the New York City Council's Independent Commission on CFE Implementation - co-chaired by TC President Arthur Levine -- calls for improving teacher quality in the public schools with a combination of financial incentives for all teachers, especially those in low-performing schools, more rigorous teacher assessment, smaller classes, and greater accountability. Teachers whose skills qualified them for a newly-instituted rank of "Master Teacher," and who chose to work in low-performing schools, would receive increases that would make them among the most highly-paid teachers in the state.
The commission was created to recommend priority uses for the anticipated billions of dollars in new funding from the successful Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which charged that New York State was denying New York City's school children their Constitutional right to a sound, basic education. In November, a special panel of judicial masters ordered an annual increase in state funding to city schools of $5 billion for operations and $9 billion for capital projects.
The commission's other co-chair is Community Service Society President David Jones. Former Schools Chancellor Anthony Alvarado serves as executive director.
A second part of the commission's report, to be released later this year, will focus on leadership, facilities, parent and community connections, pre-kindergarten, instruction, student support and technology.
In announcing the commission's report, Alvarado said, "Every effective reform is based on a foundation of high quality teachers. Recruiting well-prepared teachers, investing in their growth and development and providing working conditions conducive to good teaching is at the heart of the report. There can be no significant improvement in student performance unless we ensure that there is a high quality teacher in every New York City classroom."
Levine said, "After seeking input through public forums, studying other reform plans and educational outcomes, we've developed a set of recommendations we're convinced are the best, in fact the only way to proceed. These issues, complex and important, need rigorous public debate and it is our hope that these recommendations will trigger and inform that debate.
The report's specific recommendations include:
The report's controversial recommendations focus on the need for the City's lowest performing and highest-need schools to serve as a barometer of the system's reform efforts.
"The horrifying fact is that the vast majority of the students in our high-need low-performing schools are not exposed to high quality teaching," Jones said. "The results are apparent in disappointing student test scores, in abysmal promotion and graduation rates, and in the Court's finding that the City's students were denied a sound basic education."
In the city's lowest performing schools, the situation has reached crisis proportions. Too often, the sense of failure is so pervasive that even the most dedicated teachers seize the first opportunity to flee to a ?better? district in the city, or to an even more affluent neighboring suburb where the pay is higher and working conditions offer a better opportunity for effective teaching.
The ability to attract better teachers belongs to districts with better salaries to offer, the report finds. For example, in 2003-2004, a Bronx teacher with five years experience earned $45,506, compared to 23% higher salaries earned by teachers of similar experience in neighboring suburban communities.
The report's recommendations combine incentives for high quality teachers in the form of salary increases with a rigorous all-new assessment process. Salary incentives would provide the largest increases to those who are in the lowest performing schools.
Demanding performance-based assessments will bring meaningful evaluations that teachers are skilled in -- and doing -- the job for which they have been hired. Combined with a career ladder, assessments would help ensure that teachers are in fact high quality instructors whose good paper credentials match up with their even better classroom practice.
Ensuring Meaningful Accountability
Finally, if reforms are to succeed, the measure of success must be based on evidence. In the absence of reliable data on the effects of reform, serious accountability is impossible. The Commission proposes a new public institution to facilitate the meaningful evaluation of school system reform.
An newly-created Independent Consortium on Educational Accountability would have the responsibility for evaluating evidence of improvement, identifying opportunities for mid-course changes in strategy, focusing attention on emerging problems, and providing education officials with feedback on how they might sustain and increase the rate of improvement. Led by a Blue Ribbon Board of Trustees to be named by the Mayor, the City Council, the City Comptroller and the Public Advocate, the Office would ensure the independence of reform assessment and instill public confidence in the city's reform efforts. An Advisory Group of parents, stakeholders, and representatives of community-based organizations will help inform the Independent Office's research agenda and identify unintended consequences of different reform initiatives.
Because it is most challenging to improve teaching and learning in the City's lowest performing schools, the Commission has adopted a two-tiered approach to many of its recommendations, which address the needs of all of the schools in the system and identify the lowest performing and highest need schools for special attention.
All public schools must benefit from this settlement, high performing and low.
Here, specifically, are the recommendations contained in the Commission's report:
RECOMMENDATION 1 - All teachers will receive a 3% salary increase to begin to bring local salaries in alignment with the region. To increase the number of qualified teachers in low-performing schools, teachers in target schools will receive an additional 7%, or 23% for target schools for an extended-year calendar. Master Teachers, who demonstrate highest quality, will receive an additional 10%.
RECOMMENDATION 2 - Identify low-performing, high-need, schools to target for additional reform efforts, via an independent study conducted by the Independent Office in recommendation 10 below.
RECOMMENDATION 3 - Base teacher compensation on knowledge and skill, instead of years of experience. Linking compensation to knowledge and skill will increase the number of high quality teachers throughout the system.
RECOMMENDATION 4 - Create a Career Ladder with three rungs - Master, Career and Novice - to foster incentives and opportunities for teachers to become more skilled, to assume additional responsibilities, to remain within the teaching profession and to advance teacher quality throughout the system.
RECOMMENDATION 5 - Assign one Master Teacher for every 500 students in a school, with a maximum of three Master Teachers per school. In target schools, assign one Master Teacher for every 250 students, with no limit on the number assigned per school.
RECOMMENDATION 6 - Set and enforce high professional standards through a comprehensive assessment system to screen teacher candidates, evaluate teachers' classroom performance and knowledge, intensify tenure requirements, and evaluate Master Teacher candidates. Rigorous teacher assessments will insure that only high quality teachers enter and remain in the system, progress up the career ladder and receive salary increases.
RECOMMENDATION 7 - Every school should have a comprehensive, new teacher support package that connects on-the-job learning to performance assessment. Providing teachers with such support during their early teaching years will make them more effective and reduce the likelihood of their leaving the profession.
RECOMMENDATION 8 - Cap class size throughout the system with greater caps in target low-performing schools to allow for individualized instruction, additional time on task, and assessments.
RECOMMENDATION 9 - Tie professional development directly to instruction and classroom practice.
RECOMMENDATION 10 - Create an Independent Office for Research and Accountability to provide the public, the DOE, the schools, the Mayor, the State and the Court with evaluation of educational reforms and student performance, parent/student/teacher satisfaction, and a tracking of the CFE funds.Download the Report: Fulfilling The Promise: Getting High Quality Teachers Into Every New York City Classroom and Keeping Them There [Requires: Adobe Acrobat Reader]