the late 1980s, several states have developed similar assessments for beginning
teachers. Teachers are asked to plan a
unit of instruction linked to the standards in their content area, to adapt
their plans for English learners and
students with special needs, to teach the
unit, and then to be videotaped while
teaching these lessons. They also collect
evidence of student learning and analyze both their teaching and the student
learning that resulted.
Connecticut developed its BEST Portfolio to guide learning for beginning
teachers and then to determine the candidates’ readiness for a professional credential after two years in the classroom.
Research shows that the scores on that
portfolio significantly predicted teachers’ effectiveness with students.
There are now 27 states piloting
a national version of a performance
assessment for the initial license, which
builds on the success of California’s
Performance Assessment for Teachers. A
number of those states are beginning to
think about also using a related performance assessment during the first two
or three years of teaching that continues
to build on the initial portfolio and that
could become the basis for achieving
the professional credential. These kinds
of tools, plus the kinds of close-in evaluation and support provided by mentors
in districts that have adopted peer assistance and review programs, have also
been found to improve effectiveness.
That’s what we should be doing with
beginning teachers: using professional
teaching standards and thoughtful support and evaluation processes to give
them the feedback that they need.
One last point on the test-based
teacher evaluations: Teachers who are
subjected to those systems are saying
that they can’t draw any relationship
between what they do from year to year
and how their ratings bounce around. As
a teacher in Houston put it: “I do what
I do every year. I teach the way I teach
every year. My first year got me pats on
the back. My second year got me kicked
in the backside. And for year three my
scores were off the charts. I got a huge
bonus, and now I am in the top quartile
of all the English teachers. What did I do
differently? I have no clue.” 4
Schools and education leaders can’t
always change the policies affecting
teachers, but what might they do to
support their teachers?
Teachers want to be in environments
where they are going to be successful
with students, where they’re getting
help to do that, where they have good
colleagues, where they’re working as
a team. Teachers, especially those just
entering the profession, are generally
collaboratively oriented people.
What great schools, great principals,
and great school teams know is that you
support teachers by structuring group
collaboration for planning curriculum,
by building professional learning communities, by encouraging ongoing
inquiry into practice.
The schools that build those kinds of
environments give teachers continuous
opportunities to grow and learn, provide the tools they need to do their job,
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
and enable them to build good relationships with parents so they can work as
partners on behalf of the child.
This may mean reorganizing the
schedule, but in building those systems,
leaders personalize the school environment. All of those things really are what
will help teachers learn—and become
happy and successful in their work. EL
1See Wei, R. C., Darling-Hammond,
L., & Adamson, F. (2010). Professional
development in the United States: Trends
and challenges. Dallas, TX: National Staff
Development Council, p. 28.
2Darling-Hammond, L. (2003). Keeping
good teachers: Why it matters, what leaders can do. Educational Leadership, 60( 8),
3Gitomer, D. (2007). Teacher quality in
a changing policy landscape: Improvements in
the teacher pool. Princeton, NJ: Educational
4Darling-Hammond, L., Amrein-Beardsley, A., Haertel, E., & Rothstein, J.
(2012). Evaluating teacher evaluation. Phi
Delta Kappan, 93( 6), p. 11.
Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles
Ducommun Professor of Education and
codirector of the Stanford Center for
Opportunity Policy in Education at Stanford University, California; ldh@stanford
.edu. Marge Scherer is Editor in Chief
of Educational Leadership; mscherer@