Statistic of the Month: Treating Teachers Like Professionals

By Jennifer Craw

NCEE will soon release a new report, Fixing Our National Accountability System.  The report explains why the success of any education system is integrally tied to the design of its accountability system, in particular, the way in which the system treats its teachers.  The infographic below explains what the top performing countries do to attract, maintain and develop a high-quality teaching force.  Stay tuned for more information about the release of the report.

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Treating Teachers Like Professionals: Four Keys to a Functional Accountability System

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Creating and maintaining a quality teaching force goes hand in hand with a well developed system of teacher accountability. While punitive test-based accountability systems can stymie teacher development and dissuade promising teachers from continuing in the profession, a functional accountability system will foster teacher development and improve the entire teaching force. Here are four keys to a well-developed teacher accountability system, based on the practices of the top performing countries.

1. Develop Career Ladders for Teachers and School Leaders

Career ladders are an essential component of education systems designed to attract and retain high-quality teachers. Each step up the ladder should come with considerable additional compensation,responsibility and autonomy.

Teachers in Singapore have the option of three career ladders. Each pathway offers mentoring and professional development, and progress is based on teacher effort, not just seniority. Read about their system at http://www.moe.gov.sg/careers/teach/career-info/

2. Offer Appropriate Compensation to Attract Top Talent

Attracting top talent at the entry level requires compensation on par with other entry level professionals. In Japan, teachers are paid on par with other high status professions, like engineers and researchers.

Comparison of PPP Net Yearly Incomes in Japan from WorldSalaries.org
Computer Programmer: $20,364
Nurse: $21,840
Engineer: $25,824
Teacher: $30,216

3. Change How Teachers’ Time is Spent

At least 25 percent of teachers’ time in school should be spent working with other teachers on curriculum development, instructional methods and lesson-planning. The best teachers are allowed time to collaborate better develop their craft.

U.S. teachers spent 80 percent of their time in front of a class, teaching
Compared to 60 percent for teachers in top-performing nations.(From SCOPE, How High Achieving Countries Develop Great Teachers, Page 3)

4. Develop Peer-to-Peer Accountability Systems

The top-performing nations are moving from management systems based on a blue-collar, supervisory model of teaching, in which accountability runs up to the supervisor, to a professional model in which accountability runs horizontally, to one’s peers.

Finnish schools receive full autonomy, with head teachers and teachers experiencing
considerable independence when developing and delivering their own individual curricula.
These teachers who work together hold each other accountable for the good of the team.

These recommendations are from NCEE’s “Fixing Our National Accountability System,” a forthcoming report which details why the US system of accountability isn’t working and what can be done to fix it.