Recruiting, Developing, Retaining Top K-12 Talent is Focus of Effort to Improve Student Achievement

Grantees in this story

New York, April 21, 2010 — Calling the difference between being taught by a highly effective teacher and an ineffective one “profound,” Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian today announced $6.35 million in additional investments toward the foundation’s effort to transform the ineffective practices employed by states and districts to recruit, develop, and retain effective teachers and principals.

“Education relies on the talent, skill, and commitment of teachers and school system leaders,” said Gregorian. “For students, no school factor is more important to learning than the quality of their teachers.  As the primary asset of the American educational system, our nation’s educators deserve savvy, strategic management.”

To significantly improve the instructional effectiveness that leads to greater student achievement, the foundation is focusing on transforming policies and advancing innovations aimed at increasing the skills and quality of the K-12 workforce.  Investments focus on developing and implementing systems that allow schools to recruit and develop qualified candidates for teaching and leadership roles, place them intelligently and equitably in the right positions, cultivate their skills and sustain their commitment over time, and monitor and manage their performance with relevant metrics..

The four grants announced today represent an important continuation of support for Carnegie Corporation’s human-capital work initiated in 2007.  

Commenting on the importance of developing top talent in public education, Gregorian said, “Far too often, high-poverty, high-minority and high-immigrant schools — the very schools most in need of radical improvement — employ the least effective teachers and principals. We need skilled, committed teachers in front of these classrooms — and everythe promise of social mobility that lies at the heart of the American dream. Our capacity to recruit, support and develop teachers and principals will largely determine the degree to which the United States can participate and succeed in the emerging knowledge economy.” 

Announced today are grants to:

• The New Teacher Project ($3,000,000) to work with districts and states to better evaluate teachers, retain the most effective ones, improve average performers, remove the least effective, and develop all teachers to their highest potential.  To effect these changes, the grantee will create human-capital management systems—including differentiated professional development linked to meaningful evaluations, compensation, and retention or dismissal polices—for determining which new teachers advance in the profession, and which do not.

• The National Math and Science Initiative ($1,500,000) will adopt a state-based strategy for expanding the University of Texas at Austin’s innovative UTeach program for preparing qualified math and science teachers. NMSI will capitalize on the current federal prioritization and funding of teacher quality, especially in the STEM fields, and will market UTeach at the state and institutional levels, leaving states to hold competitive RFP processes to identify and fund replication sites.  The UTeach program takes undergraduates from the faculty of arts and sciences already majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field and provides them, simultaneously, with teacher training and certification. 

• Uncommon Schools ($1,000,000) to continue the development and piloting of a set of content-specific tools aimed at teacher improvement and increased student achievement.  This set of best practices grows out of a taxonomy of teaching mechanics developed for classroom use by Doug Lemov and supported by an earlier Carnegie Corporation grant.  The new tools for specific content areas will focus on improving instructional quality through the use of data-based, student-focused inquiry, especially in high-need schools. 

• National Council on Teacher Quality ($850,000) to identify and promote key policy changes with particular focus on changing state policy; addressing provisions in many district-union contracts, which allow promotion and prevent termination for poor performance; and transforming education schools so that they better prepare students for the classroom and are held accountable for student performance.

“There is ample evidence that a teacher’s effectiveness is the key to student success. So, to improve student achievement, we must focus our efforts on improving the current system for recruiting, developing, and maintaining talented teachers – even when that means confronting  systemic barriers intended to safeguard some of the system’s most pervasive and longstanding failures,” said Talia Milgrom-Elcott, Program Officer, Urban Education, who, with Michele Cahill, Vice President, National Program, and Program Director, Urban Education, has designed and manages the foundation’s human-capital strategy.

Commenting on the importance of creating and utilizing robust data systems linking student achievement to teachers, principals, and schools, Milgrom-Elcott said, “Through our grantmaking we are working to ensure that decisions at the classroom, school, and district level are increasingly informed by qualitative and quantitative data.  The data systems that will get us there must be capable of assessing the impact and effectiveness of teachers and principals.  Information from these systems will help districts and states identify schools and programs that produce the most effective and well trained teachers and principals.”

To boost student learning, Carnegie Corporation is pursuing a four-part human-capital strategy: (1) recruiting and training excellent teachers and principals in the highest-need schools; (2) supporting them using timely and actionable student data; (3) offering opportunities for career development that include school leadership; and (4) retaining the best teachers and principals and, when appropriate, dismissing the worst. 

Learn more about Carnegie Corporation’s four-part strategy to strengthen human capital in K-12 public education and some of the organizations it is funding.