Race to the Top encourages states to adopt policies that measure the impact of individual teachers on student learning and use those measures to inform human capital decisions including tenure. As a number of states begin to revamp their tenure-granting policies, the idea that high-stakes personnel decisions need to be linked to direct measures of teacher effectiveness is gaining traction among education policymakers. Contributing to the debate over policies that enhance teacher quality, this brief evaluates how well early-career performance signals teacher effectiveness after tenure.
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Well over a decade into the standards movement, the idea of holding schools accountable for results is being pushed to a logical, if controversial, end point: the implementation of policies aimed at holding individual teachers (not just schools) account-able for results. As a number of states begin to revamp their tenure-granting policies, the idea that high-stakes personnel decisions need to be linked to direct measures of teacher effectiveness (as a form of quality control in the workforce) is gaining traction among education policymakers.1
The focus on teacher tenure reform is appropriate and timely. Race to the Top encourages states to adopt policies that measure the impact of individual teachers on student learning and use those measures to inform human capital decisions including tenure and compensation. Also, three important findings in teacher quality research underscore the need for reform: (1) Teacher quality (measured by estimated teacher impacts on student test score gains) is the most important school-based factor when it comes to improving student achievement,2 (2) Teacher quality is a highly variable commodity (Kane, Rockoff, and Staiger 2008); and (3) A strikingly small percentage of tenured teachers is ever dismissed for poor performance (Weisberg et al. 2009).
In recent months a number of states, such as Tennessee, have considered tying teacher evaluations and tenure to student achievement as part of their Race to the Top plans.3 This research brief evaluates how well early-career performance signals teacher effectiveness after tenure. The brief presents selected findings from a larger study using North Carolina data that examines the stability of value-added model (VAM) estimates and their value in predicting student achievement (Goldhaber and Hansen 2010). This research has important implications for policies relying on VAM estimates to control teacher quality in the workforce, given that a degree of stability of teacher performance over time is implicitly assumed.
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