New Program Certifies Teachers Based on Actual Performance

Over the last two years, TNTP (formally The New Teacher Project) has trained, evaluated, and certified teachers. What sets its programs apart from others is that they are the first organization to certify teachers based primarily on their performance in the classroom. This is pivotal!

Over the next decade it is estimated that nearly 50% of current classroom teachers will retire. By ensuring that they are backfilled by teachers that gain certification based on their actual performance changes the future for a countless number of students. The lessons TNTP learned can be found in their latest report, Leap Year: Assessing and Supporting Effective First-Year Teachers.

Leap Year asserts that the first year is the most important year of a teacher’s career. TNTP has been putting this notion to the test in 15 programs across the country with its Assessment of Classroom Effectiveness (ACE) program. This program is a multiple-measures evaluation system designed specifically to ensure that first-year teachers in TNTP programs meet a high standard of effectiveness.

Leap Year explains how TNTP developed ACE and what the first year taught them about evaluating and supporting the growth of approximately 1,000 new teachers. Some of the findings include:

  • New teachers perform at different levels and improve at different rates. Contrary to conventional wisdom, first-year teacher performance is not uniform. Some start strong, while others struggle. Many improve as they gain experience, but some do not.
  • Teachers’ initial performance predicts their future performance. In particular, teachers who struggled from the start rarely came close to becoming effective, even in their second year.
  • A few core skills appear to be important to first-year teacher success. First-year teachers who are purposeful, responsive, and focused on student understanding develop more quickly.

TNTP believes their experience with ACE shows how education leaders and policymakers can support more effective early-career teaching. With this in mind, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • Certification should be linked to a teacher’s performance in the classroom, not just coursework and seat time. Nothing better indicates a teacher’s future success than his or her first-year performance.
  • Teacher preparation programs should stop certifying teachers who are unlikely to become effective. This practice only does a disservice to those teachers and their students.
  • Schools need to help first-year teachers focus on the skills that matter most for their future success, providing regular and useful feedback along the way.

In my opinion, if these recommendations are actually adopted, it could be the single most influential improvement in education in a decade.

Cecilia Retelle is Senior Director of Policy at ICW.