Most of these accolades have focused on a distinct approach to improving teaching in low-performing schools. In short: get better teachers. To some extent, this is what happened. School district officials reconstituted the faculties of the Benwood schools, requiring teachers to reapply for their jobs and hiring replacements for those who didn't make the cut. Community officials established financial incentives to attract new talent, including free graduate school tuition, mortgage loans, and performance bonuses.How did the teacher get better? In part by using value added instructional data. You know, hard statistics that give a teacher a better idea of whether they are a good teacher or not.
But the arguments that these initiatives brought a flood of new and better teachers into the schools' classrooms have been overstated. Most of the teachers who reapplied for their jobs were hired back, and less than 20 of the 300 teachers in the Benwood schools received bonuses in the first year of the much-touted financial-incentive plan.
Benwood's success has had at least as much to do with a second, equally important teacher-reform strategy: helping teachers improve the quality of their instruction.
You know, the whole "Moneyball" in education aspect that others far smarter than I have discussed.