Saturday, January 09, 2010

Ryan Hill's testimony on Improving Teacher Quality in Low-Income Schools

KIPP TEAM's Ryan Hill gave a statement on "Improving Teacher Quality in Low-Income Schools" to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last April that is the best I've read on this topic – perhaps because rather than being written by an academic, it's written by an actual high-quality teacher with many years of experience in low-income schools.  His full testimony is posted here:


Here is a summary of his recommendations:


In order to improve teacher quality in our neediest schools, we must change everything from how we select and certify teachers to how we train and promote them. In doing so, we will change the image of teaching from one that is unappealing to high performers to one that attracts them and keeps them engaged and impactful.

The following recommendations for transforming the education system are being piloted in different schools around the country where the freedom to innovate is being provided either by reformfriendly superintendents or the relaxed regulations of charter school laws. These promising programs are at various stages of incubation and should be tested and expanded. They include activities and systems that do the following:

1) Improve teacher recruitment and retention by structuring the profession in a way that appeals to high performers.

2) Improve teacher selection and earlycareer retention by developing apprenticeship programs that train and evaluate new teachers.

3) Improve retention of top teachers by creating multiple careerpaths along which the best teachers are provided escalating incentives and authority based on their performance in the classroom

4) Improve longterm retention of teachers by developing better managers and management systems within schools.

5) Eliminate barriers to removing ineffective teachers by abolishing tenure and improving assessment systems.

6) Increase the pool of potential teachers by expanding alternate pathways to teaching.

Ryan also cites data on the importance of teacher quality from a fabulous Malcolm Gladwell article, which is well worth reading if you missed it (


Popular author Malcolm Gladwell cites Stanford Economist Eric Hanushek's estimate that "the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year's worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half's worth of material. That difference amounts to a year's worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a 'bad' school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than classsize effects. You'd have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you'd get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eightyfifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers."

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