Classroom teachers know best what makes them effective and capable of doing their jobs well. These professionals know precisely what tools they need in their classrooms, how much support they need from school officials, and whether evaluation systems are fair and comprehensive enough. In fact, they have never objected to greater innovation and flexibility in classrooms, instead they are the ones who, in many ways, have taught us how to create teaching and learning spaces that are more conducive to student academic success. Effective teachers have been calling for greater parental involvement, improved systems of evaluation and accountability, and professional development programs that support their goals. While the rest of us have been rightfully focusing on the scores of bad and ineffective instructors, the most successful teaching professionals have been perfecting their craft and best practices. Fortunately, the rest of us are finally catching up to them.
After years of observing and consulting with teachers, education stakeholders and entrepreneurs across the spectrum have gained a greater appreciation for the uniqueness and complexities surrounding teacher effectiveness. Even though we’ve known for a long time how difficult it is to replicate the habits, gifts, and practices of great teachers, we are still having a hard time hiring, training, evaluating, and rewarding them sufficiently. Teachers unions, school administrators, and school reformers are finally moving closer to the development of systems and protocols that can yield widespread teacher effectiveness, so that all students can benefit from great teaching. We’re now beginning to understand that it’s critical for evaluation systems to be comprehensive enough so that they allow for the proper rewarding of good teaching and the kinds of supports needed to advance those who are not being successful as instructors.
It’s taken us a long time to truly understand that no progress toward large scale teacher success can occur unless the teaching professionals themselves lead us and teach us what we don’t and cannot know. They’ve taught us that they care about how well they’re doing in front of their students and whether their students are learning at a high level. Just like other professionals, America’s classroom teachers value their craft and expect to be rewarded and corrected based on performance and merit. And they’re open to best practices and systems that have produced results and effectiveness for other professions and professionals. As it turns out, because we have wisely asked our teachers to lead us as we devise better systems of recruitment, training, evaluation, accountability, and rewards, we can see our path forward.