The Intersection

Improving the Quality of Teachers and Principals

August 4, 2014

This is an excerpt from the overview of a five-part re:VISION special series on improving the effectiveness of the nation’s teachers and leaders. The Hunt Institute’s re:VISION focuses on critical issues in education policy – highlighting key research for policymakers and prompting discussion of solutions within states and across the nation. The “teacher effectiveness series” is intended to provide state-level policymakers with a digest of existing research and current state efforts around teacher preparation, evaluation, compensation, and school leadership. Each of the briefs in this series will provide a deeper exploration of the challenges states are facing in the area of educator effectiveness reform and offer considerations for policymakers.

A talented, well-trained, and committed workforce is the life-blood of any enterprise. Ask any successful business or military leader. The most successful companies spend considerable time, energy, and resources to identify, recruit, and hire the best and brightest; then they work at keeping them through optimal working conditions, incentives, and pay.

The military invests mightily in developing and honing the skills of its members; it pays for additional education and it invests in talent. The security of our country depends on it.

Education leaders are no different than their counterparts in industry and the military. Their most valuable assets are in human resources, which comprise upwards of 80 percent of most district and school budgets.Classroom teachers, now established by extensive research as the most important school-based factor affecting student achievement, and school principals, who affect the learning of every student in their schools, are the two most valuable assets.But, too many school districts are hampered by less than adequate means of accomplishing what their for-profit colleagues can do: identify, recruit, and retain the most highly talented people to fill those roles. They also lack the means to compensate adequately and support sufficiently their current teachers and leaders.

Among international competitors, the U.S. is an economic leader but trails in many aspects of teacher preparation, investment, and continuous improvement. To change this situation requires a multi-part and comprehensive strategy. The good news is that examples of encouraging reforms exist in many places, and strong evidence shows that these reforms are lifting student achievement.

Policymakers should consider each area of reform in context of the others. If they are addressed in isolation, old problems in some areas will hinder progress in another. For instance, effective compensation reforms require an evaluation system that is capable of producing accurate results that distinguish between good, average, and poor teachers.


Retiring teachers, a growing student population, and high attrition among teachers in the first five years of their careers means that first-year teachers are now the largest cohort each year.  Improving teacher preparation so that teachers are ready to teach from day one is therefore essential to any comprehensive effort to improve teacher quality.

To read the full brief, go to: overview

The other briefs in the re:VISION Teacher Effectiveness Series are:
• Teacher Evaluation
• Teacher Compensation
• Teacher Preparation
• School Leadership

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