Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Teacher Distribution and District Size

Kati Haycock:

We’re beginning, though, I think, to see some efforts to change that. One of the most interesting is in Hamilton County, Tennessee, where, using real data, they’ve identified some of their strongest teachers.

They’ve provided them incentives to come in groups to their lowest- performing schools, and they’ve also paid the teachers in those schools who are strong performers more, as well. And results in the schools are up, as a result.

Guilford County, North Carolina, is another system that has taken this issue on and made some real progress. Houston Independent School District is doing some interesting work around teacher distribution and performance, as well. And I think some of these cities will help lead the way as we figure out what’s the right combination of strategies. How much of this is about really important – is about school leadership? Because we know that having good leaders in schools is one of the strongest magnets we can have for strong teachers. But how much of this is impeded by contract provisions that we need to change?

It is not a coincidence that she cites three southern districts, two county based and one 310 square mile urban one. Providence is 18.5 square miles. There are only a handful of schools in the green areas above. Redistributing teachers within the city is not a solution to our problems.

There is no reason the Race to the Top criteria couldn't have "incentivized" realignment of districts into larger, particularly mixed-income, units. Of course, that would have been a hundred times more controversial than anything that actual made the proposal, which is why is isn't in there, despite the fact that it is almost certainly a precondition to one of their main strategies having a chance of working.

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