Building the Best Educational Staff: Part 1
by Stuart Singer, The Teacher Leader
There is no easy fix
In order to retain its status as a global leader the United States must create a world-class educational system. To that end, numerous efforts are being made to find the correct formula. Charter schools advocate longer hours and teacher freedom; a New York City school offers starting salaries of $125,000; Bill Gates has spent millions to study teacher evaluation and policy makers stress the need for accountability by using standardized tests. Recently Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell offered a new merit pay program designed to assist under-performing schools in finding good staffing. A variety of other incentive plans have been proposed with the intent of attracting top-level talent. While these and other ideas have varying degrees of merit, individually they are insufficient.
There is no simple solution
Building a winning team whether on the athletic field or in the classroom requires many ingredients. Ask successful coaches for their winning secrets and their response will be complex. They cannot point to one particular element that consistently results in a championship team. Likewise, no one-dimensional approach can produce outstanding educators in every classroom. Looking for a “quick-fix” only delays the formulation of the sweeping set of policies required to populate every school with an excellent staff.
It is a complex problem
In a recent post Mel Riddile has made a strong case that money alone will not create great teachers. Based on his thoughts and my own educational experiences I believe that the following seven issues must be addressed to guarantee excellence in teaching staffs:
- A commitment to hiring policies that result in offering job opportunities to the most effective candidates.
- Establishing an evaluation program that results in a fair, consistent analysis of teacher performance and both improves effectiveness while identifying underperforming staff members.
- Formulating a policy for removing teachers in an equitable but efficient manner.
- Abolishing “last hired-first fired”.
- Creating meaningful staff development programs which have proven quantitative evidence of success in the classroom.
- Competitive salaries with common sense rewards for outstanding work that can be measured in a clear and accurate way.
- Create leadership positions for teachers that will give them consequential input into educational policy.
- Ensure that all schools, especially those with challenging student bodies, have outstanding staffs.
More philosophical than fiscal
Over the next few weeks I will address these eight issues and present a comprehensive approach for hiring, improving and retaining outstanding educational staffs. At a time of limited budgets, an important aspect of this plan is the low cost. The major expenditures are in time and commitment, not dollars.
Next: Hiring policies and strategies that find great talent