Good Education Policy

Good Education Policy Explained

As noted on the education law page, I am particularly interested in using my legal abilities to further good educational policy. Educational policy does not exist in the abstract- pretty much every policy in the educational context either helps or hurts children receive a good education.

Some educational policy questions are still unknown, and that is probably as it always will be, but there are many educational policy questions that we know the correct answers to, yet that are not yet implemented. Some of the key concepts, policies that we really know beyond dispute, unless, as the saying goes, our paycheck depends on not understanding the policies, are as follows:

Effective Teachers are the Highest Priority.

While many factors can have an impact on a child’s education, with the family situation probably being the greatest factor, but also the one that those not in the family have the least ability to impact, the greatest factor that educators can control is the quality of the teacher. To a certain extent, the existence of a stable educational setting is presumed, a school in a war zone presents additional challenges, and clearly a good leader, a good principal, will help in having effective teachers, but schools and principals do not teach children, teachers do.

Effective teachers are considered effective when they can move students, whether the students come to them as high or low achieving students, from where they start, and demonstrate that the students have made significant progress during the course of the school year. How far they must move students will be a factor in how effective they are, but it can be safe to say that moving them less than a years worth on knowledge in a years time would not be an auspicious start. In many cases with already low performing students, the effectiveness needed will be to move students 2, 3 or even 5 years ahead in knowledge.

Well, what are some of the things we know about effective teachers? First, we know that years of experience has no impact on student results: once a teacher reaches the 3rd or 4th year of teaching. A 20 year teacher will be no more effective on average than the same teacher was at 4 years.

We also know that obtaining a advanced degree such as a masters or doctorate has no positive impact on a teachers effectiveness, with a minor exception for a few math teachers, nor does a certification such as a nationally board certified teacher. In fact, for nationally board certified teachers, we know that their effectiveness goes down during the year they become nationally board certified.

We also know that the route to teacher certification is irrelevant- whether they went to a college of education or became certified by an alternative route has no significant impact on teacher effectiveness.

We also know that when teachers are paid the same, the better teachers, to the extent they stay in teaching, tend to choose the schools that have the better learning environments because of parental involvement and student preparation. Really, this is just one of those no brainers – if the salary is the same, might as well try to take advantage of non – salary benefits.

Additionally, while highly effective teachers are important at every level, we also know that they are most important at the elementary levels and particularly in the context of teaching students to read. Students who leave the early grades several years behind have a very slim chance of ever catching up.

In summation then, it is hard to predict which teachers will be highly effective before they enter the classroom, but after 3 or 4 years they can be identified based on student results, and they will be on average as effective or ineffective for the rest of their teaching careers. We also know that the traditional basis for determining salaries, years of experience and degrees obtained has no positive correlation with teacher effectiveness, and in effect has a negative correlation from a return on investment perspective. We also know that because of current collective bargaining agreements that mandate that all teachers with the same years of experience treated alike without regard to effectiveness or area of expertise, that the better teachers tend to wind up over time in the schools with the less challenging students.

May 2014 Update: Be sure to visit myflteacher.com , for the names of Florida’s best Public School teachers based on Student growth.