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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

The Widget Effect

Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness

June 8, 2009

If teachers are so important, why do we treat them like widgets?

Effective teachers are the key to student success, yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.

The Widget Effect is a wide-ranging report that studies teacher evaluation and dismissal in four states and 12 diverse districts and reflects survey responses from approximately 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators.

Key Findings:

  • All teachers are rated good or great. Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, making it impossible to identify truly exceptional teachers.
     
  • Professional development is inadequate. Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive any specific feedback on improving their performance in their last evaluation.
     
  • Novice teachers are neglected. Low expectations for beginning teachers translate into benign neglect in the classroom and a toothless tenure process.
     
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed. Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years.

The report gives policymakers and school leaders recommendations for acquiring better information about instructional quality to give great teachers the recognition they deserve.