At Steinhardt’s Educational Policy Breakfast, A Twitter Feed Reveals Complexity of Measuring Teacher Effectiveness

NYU Steinhardt’s kicked off its three-part policy series on teacher quality and effectiveness with a forum about the challenge of defining what it means to be an effective teacher and how to identify quality teaching.

Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Hamp Lankford, professor of educational administration and policy studies (University at Albany, SUNY), discussed issues of teacher preparation and assessment. Mary Brabeck, dean of NYU Steinhardt, introduced the proceedings that were followed by questions from the audience, moderated by Lorena Llosa, associate professor of education in Steinhardt’s Department of Teaching and Learning.

Philip Johnson, a master’s student in international education at NYU Steinhardt was on hand to capture the flavor of Steinhart’s first Education Policy Breakfast through tweets.

Below are excerpts from Johnson’s twitter feed:

Brabeck: how do we measure teacher quality? There are over 600 teacher ‘tests’ in the US.

Walcott’s plan for NYC schools is ambitious; he wants to reshape the bell curve of teacher effectiveness.

Walcott: most (75%) local teachers, when asked, agreed that the old system of evaluation was inadequate.

Lankford: are teacher preparation programs addressing local context? NYC has a chronic shortage of math teachers.

When Lankford was starting his research, almost 40% of teachers in low-income schools were failing their first teachers’ exam.

Lankford’s “holy grail” is conclusively proving that any one system leads to highly effective teacher preparation.

Walcott describes listening to Lankford’s presentation as by turns uplifting and depressing. He wants that holy grail.

Lankford: don’t forget that teacher effectiveness is not the final goal. Student achievement is the real objective.

Walcott: “I don’t want an ineffective teacher in the system”, “I can’t let anyone hurt our children’s education”.

Walcott, answering an audience question: “the people should hold us accountable”.

Walcott: “if you don’t want a hard job, don’t be a principal”.

Lankford has high praise for the measures being taken by NYC to introduce multiple approaches to teacher evaluation.

Hard-hitting question: what incentive do senior, tenured teachers have to be highly effective?

Walcott: “most teachers are there to teach”. He thinks teachers that just don’t care are the outliers.

Walcott doesn’t necessarily agree with the tenure program, but he doesn’t doubt that tenured teachers still want to improve.

Big (eloquent) closing question: how do we measure the will? Lankford: we need a willlometer.”

Lankford wraps it up: it’s all a work in progress, but we’re headed in an encouraging direction.

The NYU Steinhardt Education Policy Breakfast Series brings together policy leaders, legislators, business people, heads of corporations, foundations and advocacy organizations, university faculty, and school superintendents. For more than a decade, our goal has been to illuminate contemporary educational issues and foster discussion among the many constituencies concerned with education at both the local and national levels.

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(Photo: (left to right) Lorena Llosa, Hamp Lankford, Mary Brabeck, Derek Walcott)