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New Policy Brief Calls for an Improved System to Measure Teacher Quality

Press Release:

New Policy Brief Calls for an Improved System to Measure Teacher Quality

WASHINGTON, DC ─ Although teacher quality is recognized as one of the most powerful factors in student learning, schooling in the United States relies on teacher licensure systems that value academic degrees, years of experience, and paper and pencil exams over demonstrations of effectiveness. A new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education calls for practical set of standards and assessments to measure the quality of teacher performance.

“Transforming High Schools: Performance Systems for Powerful Teaching” recommends providing teachers with the quality education and ongoing training needed to greatly improve student outcomes. The brief proposes changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind, which would elevate the teaching profession, support robust performance assessments to reliably measure teacher competency, and encourage feedback systems to help teachers continually improve their craft.

“It is widely documented that in order to advance student learning, teachers need to be able to diagnose and remediate learning gaps as well as have the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues and spread innovation,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia.“So the question becomes, how can schools help teachers get there and how can policy support schools in this effort? Part of the solution is to develop a standards-based approach that defines a common vision of skilled teaching that is in line with helping all students graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

“Transforming High Schools” provides several recommendations for federal and state policymakers to support educator development in high schools:

  • Embrace high expectations and goals for all students by establishing college and career readiness as the core mission of the K–12 education system.
  • Encourage states working with practitioners to create standards of practice that define quality teaching based on what teachers need to know and be able to do to elicit targeted student performances embodied in common standards and assessments.
  • Support the development of rigorous assessments that incorporate observational and other performance measures of teaching for the purpose of evaluating, developing, and recognizing teacher effectiveness and informing professional preparation and development.

“How a school judges teaching needs to be more closely tied to what is known about how teaching can improve student learning,” said Wise. “Although teacher evaluations are very important, they cannot serve as a successful standalone policy but must be accompanied with meaningful feedback on how to improve practice. The lack of feedback and support can be particularly detrimental in low-income schools because these teachers have little exposure to influential peers and little opportunity to improve so their performance tends to plateau or decline after a few years.”

Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development finds that socioeconomic disadvantage has a particularly strong impact on student performance in the United States, as compared to countries such as Canada and Japan. In examining lessons from abroad, the brief finds that the top-performing nations have a shared commitment to improving the teacher workforce and they recognize that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. In order to address achievement gaps that persists across the United States, the brief calls for dramatically improving the concentration and distribution of effective teachers in high schools.

“Transforming High Schools” highlights several examples of performance-based licensure programs in development around the country. For example, twenty states have joined the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA), an initiative led by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Stanford University. TPA was highly influenced by a successful preservice teaching performance assessment started in California called the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT). A number of teacher education programs have reported success in using PACT data to assess and improve their programs. The model for both of these teacher performance assessments is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards which has granted advanced certification to more than 91,000 teachers nationwide since its inception.

To read the complete brief, visit here


The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit

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