Report urges teacher support


POSTED: Friday, January 30, 2009

Hawaii needs to do a better job evaluating and helping new public school teachers while giving effective teachers incentives so they will not leave, a new report argues.




On the Net:

        To read the full teacher report, and the Hawaii highlights, click here.

The 2008 State Teacher Policy Yearbook gave Hawaii a barely passing letter grade of D for its efforts to identify and retain good teachers and dismiss bad ones. The national average was a D-plus. Most states earned C's or below.

Among the criticism: Hawaii's Education Department does not require extra support to prevent new teachers from burning out and assesses them only once in their first year, according to the study by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan group.

It called for two annual reviews for new, untenured teachers, with the first examination early in the school year to check their skills. Only 23 states evaluate new teachers twice or more annually, the report found.

  ;  While Hawaii was praised for discharging teachers labeled unsatisfactory overall, the report expressed concern that isle teachers are evaluated only every five years.

Bruce Shimomoto, personnel director for Hawaii's Education Department, said principals monitor information for new and veteran teachers throughout the year, allowing for discussions for improvements before an evaluation report is done at year's end.

“;The process does require the administrators ... to observe them and to interview them, gather data on their performance in the classroom,”; he said. “;They may also gather input from parents, colleagues and the school community.”;

About 200 Hawaii teachers were rated less than satisfactory by principals between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. About 4,700 teachers are screened each year, and peer mentors offer support to poor-performing teachers, according to the state Education Department.

The national report criticized Hawaii - along with most states - over how it awards teachers tenure, saying it is done in a “;virtually automatic”; way. The Hawaii Education Department countered by noting its employees must have satisfactory ratings for their first two semesters to get tenure.

Meanwhile, all states and the District of Columbia posted failing marks for lacking incentives to keep teachers on the job. The study said Hawaii's pay schedule “;shows minimal increases”; over a teacher's first five years in the classroom, and recommended the state offer financial rewards for performance.

Just more than half of Hawaii teachers stay at the same school for five years or more, according to 2007 state data.

The study, however, lauded bonuses given to teachers who agree to work at hard-to-recruit schools. In the 2007-08 school year, 1,110 isle teachers received an additional $3,000 for working at those schools, which usually have a high proportion of disadvantaged students or require long commutes.

The study also wades into a growing controversy over whether teachers should be held accountable for their students' progress.

It said just 15 states - Hawaii excluded - require a look at whether kids are learning when teachers are evaluated. In addition, the study gave poor ratings to Hawaii and 34 other states that do not explicitly connect bonuses or raises to evidence of student achievement.

The department's spokeswoman, Sandy Goya, emphasized that many of the areas highlighted in the report - tenure, teacher evaluations and performance pay - are subject to negotiation with unions.

“;We cannot just do a unilateral change,”; Shimomoto said.

The National Education Association and other unions and teacher groups argue there should be multiple measures of teacher performance along with student achievement.


To see the whole report, go to www.nctq.org/stpy08. The Associated Press contributed to this story.