Education Trust Report Emphasizes Need For Culture, Policy Changes In High-Poverty, Low-Performing Public Schools

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, June 29, 2012

A new report released by The Education Trust emphasizes the need for policy and culture changes in the public education sector, and not just updated teacher evaluation systems.

“Making evaluations more meaningful is a critical step toward improving our schools. But being able to determine who our strongest teachers and principals are doesn’t mean that struggling students will magically get more of them,” Sarah Almy, director of teacher quality at The Education Trust and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “We have to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive working environments in our high-poverty and low-performing schools that will make them more attractive to our strongest teachers.”

According to the report, teachers’ job satisfaction hinges more on the culture of the school -- namely the quality of school leadership and staff cohesion -- than it does on the demographics of the students or teacher salaries. Teachers who view their work environment in a positive light are more likely to evoke positive outcomes in their students.

The researchers profiled five school districts across the country that are making strides to improve the conditions for teachers and learning that influence school culture.

For instance, Ascension Parish School System in southern Louisiana prioritized providing teachers with meaningful and continuous feedback, coupled with support and time during the school day to collaborate and reflect on instructional practice. Once teachers recognized that these performance evaluations were being used to improve practice, rather than as a punitive measure, they reportedly embraced the new culture of shared learning and responsibility.

Meanwhile, Fresno Unified School District in California launched a district-wide initiative to develop school principals into strong instructional leaders by teaching them how to recognize effective teaching practices and provide fellow educators with useful feedback.

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