Where is our reform focus?

By Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
 
A subtle transition has occurred around our profession’s discussions of reform, so subtle that many of us may not have consciously picked up on it. That transition is from conversations about “school effectiveness” to ones of “educator effectiveness.”

While we still submit our “comprehensive school reform” grants, we now hear many more conversations about “effective educators.” Here’s why.

Analysis shows that the impact produced at the school level is, while significant, rather small when considering the impact of teachers. According to Dylan Wiliam, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at University College London, “only 8% of the variability in student achievement is attributable to the school” (2011). At the same time, “in the United States, the classroom effect appears to be at least four times the size of the school effect” (PISA, 2007 in Wiliam, 2011).

Following these findings, if the impact on the variability in students’ achievement is 8% according to which school they attend, then the impact of the educator must be, at a bare minimum, 32%. These estimates mirror the findings of John Hattie (see visible-learning.org).

Because the impact of the teacher is among the largest and most controllable variables, many states now focus attention on ensuring effective educators. We delude ourselves, however, if we think that educator effectiveness reforms can be about flushing a bunch of people out of the system because in our country there aren’t lines of other people standing by to take their jobs (Wiliam, 2015). And very few people are in the profession who truly do not belong, though some may require more assistance than others.

Wiliam suggests that administrators will most often want to adopt a “love the one you’re with” philosophy, focusing intense attention on helping our teachers be the best they possibly can be. If you are looking for ideas on how to best do this, peruse the “Hattie Rankings” found at visible-learning.org for those programs and models with the highest documented effect sizes. Among the most impactful are the trainings on meta-cognitive strategies, formative assessment, feedback, and Response to Intervention.

The best educators are lifelong learners which is critical because, as Wiliam notes, “This job you’re doing is so complex it takes more than a lifetime to master” which means that “each one of us should accept the commitment to continue on in improving our practice until we retire or die.”

Now, there’s a mindset of continuous improvement!

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References
Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Gene Kerns, EdD, is a third-generation educator with teaching experience from elementary through the university level, in addition to his K–12 administrative experience. As Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance, Dr. Kerns advises educators in both the US and the UK about academic trends and opportunities. Previously, he served as the Supervisor of Academic Services for the Milford School District in Milford, Delaware. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Longwood College in Virginia and a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware. His first publication, Informative Assessment: When It’s Not About a Grade, focused on using routine, reflective, and rigorous informative assessments to inform and improve teaching practices and student learning.

2 Comments

  1. Patti Guthrie says:

    I have just finished my 33rd calendar year of teaching. It is a job I love! It is a job I will attempt to master until I retire or die! I appreciate this article. Our work is so important, yet with the current state of education, I find it hard to encourage bright, young people to enter the field. It worries me.
    I so enjoyed your video clips in my Ren-U coursework, Dr. Kerns, and hope I have opportunities to learn more from you.

    • Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Gene Kerns says:

      Dear Patti,
      Congratulations on the admirable accomplishment of 33 years in teaching and kudos for your passion to continuing in refining your craft “until you retire or die.” I hope, however, that your eventual out is the retirement path.

      We are so pleased that you’ve found your Renaissance-U coursework rewarding and stand by to continue assisting you in your development as we can.

      You are so correct in noting the challenges of drawing young people into our noble profession, particularly given recent challenges. I found our “A Teacher Like You” videos uplifting on this front (http://ateacherlikeyou.com/tagged/films). Given the passion of your post, I know your students are fortunate to have a teacher like you!

      Sincerely,
      Gene Kerns