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Letter to Committee on Education and the Workforce on Teacher Performance

February 27, 2013

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we would like to offer the following comments in connection with the February 28 hearing, “Raising the Bar: How are Schools Measuring Teacher Performance?”

With student success as our guiding star, NEA has embarked on a major initiative to transform the teaching profession and accelerate student learning. By gathering the unvarnished input of thousands of classroom teachers and an independent Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, we proposed a three-point plan, “Leading the Profession,” aimed at increasing the quality of teacher candidates before they ever reach the classroom, making sure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers, and improving student learning by improving the teaching profession. Specific elements include:

  • Raising the bar for entering the classroom with strong standards for those preparing to become teachers and a need to demonstrate classroom proficiency through clinical practice.
  • Teachers ensuring teacher quality by making sure teachers’ skills remains sharp through professional development, structured mentorships, and rigorous standards-based evaluations like those in Columbus, Ohio, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
  • Transforming the profession by teachers taking on leadership roles and responsibility for improving instruction, curriculum, and overall school performance. 

Much focus also continues on effective and appropriate ways to measure teacher performance. In fact, an enormous amount of activity is underway at the state and local level regarding the establishment or reforms of teacher evaluation systems. We strongly believe that the focus of teaching evaluation systems should be to improve individual, as well as whole school, teaching practice so students benefit from the best teaching. And, that development of these systems must take place collaboratively and at the state or local level. The federal government should not dictate the components of evaluations, but should play a role in research around best practices in teacher performance and evaluation.  

The independent Commission, our members, and leading researchers agree that effective evaluation systems:

  • Are developed collaboratively with the input of practicing teachers, and are transparent.
     
  • Include multiple measures that include evidence of student learning, peer evaluations, and contributions to the profession. (See the “Measures of Effective Teaching” (PDF icon, 327KB, 1 pg) attachment for more detail.)
  • Emphasize contributions to the profession. To ensure that students benefit from the best teaching, the focus of teacher evaluation systems must be to improve the practice of individual teachers, as well as the profession as a whole. 

We thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to submit these comments. We look forward to working with the entire Committee to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in a manner that supports good teaching practice and promotes student learning while remaining true to the original intent of the law: to provide equal educational opportunity for all.  

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler 
Director, Government Relations

Attachments:

Measures of Effective Teaching Project” (PDF icon, 327 KB, 1 pg)
Transforming the Teaching Profession (PDF icon, 402 KB, 2 pp)