Term Paper: Personnel Development

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¶ … improve education in America today? Better teachers! But why don't school administrators hire 'better teachers'? Surely it is not an easy a task to determine what and how makes better teaching, as it is to assert that teachers that exhibit a higher quality of education ought to be hired. By assessing four recent articles on quality assessment of teaching qualifications, teaching results, student performance and assessment, and finally programs to encourage teacher to perform to a higher status, a better degree of clarity, specificity, and hopefully efficacy can be introduced to the occasionally vacuous assertion that 'quality' of a higher standard is needed in teaching.

How often has the clarion cry for better teachers been sounded when issues of educational policy are debated -- it's not more money, longer hours, better faculties, newer textbooks -- so long as 'better teachers' are hired, then things will automatically improve. A 2005 article by the Office of Educational Accountability entitled "Teacher Characteristics" cited more than a decade's worth of studies prioritizing personnel, or the selection of quality educators by capable administrators as key to improving America's schools: "A 1994 national survey by the Public Agenda (Johnson & Immerwahr, 1994) indicated that Americans ranked 'good teachers' as the most important thing public schools need in order to do a good job. A consensus process conducted by the University of Minnesota in 1996 with over 200 Minnesotans also identified 'quality teaching' as the most salient predictive indicator of the success of our system (Bruininks, Bielinski, Danielson, et.al, 1996). In 1996, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future issued their report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. In it, the Council drew the conclusion that effective school reform would depend primarily on investments aimed at providing teachers with increased access to the knowledge they need to meet the demands of the profession (as cited in Darling-Hammond, 1998)."

In short, to summarize the findings of both the article entitled "Teacher Characteristics" and "Teacher Quality and Student Achievement," another quantitative assessment of teacher quality (Darling-Hammond, 2000). "As new standards for student learning have been introduced across the states, greater attention has been given to the role that teacher quality plays in student achievement." The key word is always quality. There is, of course, some truth to this generalization that America needs better quality educators. However once one accepts "quality teaching" as the buzzword of what needs to be done in order to ensure that we have better quality teaching America's schools, then one must survey the available research to determine which particular teacher-related variables seem to be most highly correlated with greater levels of student achievement.

Assessing who will prove to be good teachers before they enter the classroom is difficult. For instance, there is a lack of strong relationship between measures of IQ and overall teacher effectiveness. The findings between subject matter knowledge and teacher effectiveness are also not as strong and consistent as one might suppose. There is somewhat stronger and more consistently positive influence of specifically education-related coursework on teachers' effectiveness, and the Office of Educational Accountability article on "Teacher Characteristics" cites an earlier study that found that increased levels of specifically vocationally directed teacher education proved to have a statistically "significant effect" on student outcomes. Also, "research into the characteristics of successful teachers has consistently pointed to the benefits of educating our future teachers in both the science of teaching and in their selected subject areas or disciplines." (Office of Educational Accountability, 2005) but while many studies have established that inexperienced teachers (those with less than three years of experience) are typically less effective than more senior teachers, the benefits of experience appear to level off after about five years, especially in non-collegial work settings. Similarly evaluations between teacher certification and efficacy have shown little correlation. (Darling-Hammond, 2000) Thus, evaluating teacher quality based upon past education level and grades, formal certification and credentials, experience, and IQ seems a difficult prospect at best.

Of course, when evaluating teacher quality, how does one manage to measure student quality of achievement as well? There may be a growing tendency for teachers and schools to inflate grades, according to a new report from the groups that administer the SAT and the ACT. For instance, student scores on the American College Testing (ACT)… [END OF PREVIEW]

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