Center for American Progress

: Can We Improve Teacher Effectiveness
Past Event

Can We Improve Teacher Effectiveness

by Measuring Performance on the Job?

12:00 AM - 11:59 PM EDT

Can We Improve Teacher Effectiveness by Measuring Performance on the Job?

Featured Speakers:
Joan Baratz-Snowden, Director of Educational Issues, AFT Teachers Division of the American Federation of Teachers
Tom Blanford, Associate Director, Teacher Quality Department, National Education Association
Robert Gordon, Senior Vice President for Economic Policy, Center for American Progress
Jason Kamras, 2005 National Teacher of the Year and 7th and 8th Grade Math Teacher, John Philip Sousa Middle School
Amy Wilkins, Executive Director, Education Reform Now

Moderated by:
Cynthia G. Brown, Director of Education Policy, Center for American Progress

Good teachers are the most important part of good schools. Today, we require teachers to obtain many credentials before going into the classroom, but then do little to distinguish among teachers once hired. In a new paper from the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, Center for American Progress Senior Vice President Robert Gordon, Harvard Professor Thomas Kane, and Dartmouth Professor Douglas Staiger argue that we should flip this system around–requiring fewer credentials on the front end, then using measures of teacher effectiveness to raise the bar for getting tenure and to raise pay for high-performing teachers in poor schools.  In a column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “It’s the Teachers, Stupid” (subscription required), David Wessel writes that, “These proposals won’t change the world. But they would make it better. And they could change what’s become a sterile debate over how best to remedy one of America’s biggest weaknesses: its public schools. That alone would be a good thing.”

Does the new proposal make sense?  Are there better ways to improve the effectiveness of America’s teachers?  A diverse group will debate these important questions.



Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4) format.

Other Materials

Wednesday, April 12, 2006
: 9:00 A.M. to 10:30 A.M
Breakfast will be served at 8:30 A.M.
Admission is free.

Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
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Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center


Joan Baratz -Snowden is the Director of Educational Issues, AFT Teachers Division of the American Federation of Teachers. In that capacity, she oversees the department’s work related to publications, the technical assistance and other services it provides to assist members, and the dissemination to the public of AFT’s policies on professional issues such as standards and assessments, reading, teacher quality, charter schools and redesigning schools to raise achievement. Prior to joining the AFT, Dr. Baratz-Snowden was Vice President for Education Policy and Reform and for Assessment and Research at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). She was responsible for addressing policy issues related to creating a more effective school environment for teaching and learning, increasing the supply of high-quality entrants teaching, improving teacher education and continuing professional development, and directing the initial research and development activities necessary to develop the NBPTS assessments. Dr. Baratz-Snowden also directed the Education Policy Research and Services Division at the Educational Testing Service. Dr. Baratz-Snowden is well known for her policy studies in the politics of testing and evaluation. Her research examined issues of the impact and use of standardized testing in schools, colleges and universities and the entrance to teaching and other professions.

Tom Blanford has been the Associate Director of the National Education Association’s Teacher Quality Department since 2002. His responsibilities include program and policy development that will assist the nation’s teachers become more skilled and more effective at what they do. Tom received a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin, an MA from Wayne State University in Detroit. He was a teacher in Detroit and in Raleigh, NC for fourteen years. While working as a classroom teacher, he was appointed to the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission, where he was elected as Chair. Tom was awarded the Terry Sanford Award for Innovation and Creativity in Teaching, and selected as a recipient of a national three-year fellowship from the Kellogg Foundation in leadership development. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Dropout Prevention Network, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards during the years when the first teachers were certified. Tom was the national recipient of the Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award in 1993, and served as Executive Board member and Vice President of his 3,600 member local teachers union. In 1997, Tom left the classroom to serve as Executive Director of the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission. Among other things, he worked to develop a state-wide survey of teacher working conditions that is now used in five states.

Robert Gordon is the Senior Vice President for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. Before joining the Center, Robert was the domestic policy director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, where he served as the campaign’s designee on the Democratic platform drafting committee. Previously, Robert worked for Senator John Edwards, first as his Judiciary Committee counsel and legislative director in the Senate, then as the policy director for his presidential campaign. Prior to his work on Capitol Hill, Robert was a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Skadden Fellow at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York City, where he represented children in abuse and neglect proceedings. Robert also served in the Clinton White House as an aide to the National Economic Council and the Office of National Service, where he helped craft the legislation creating AmeriCorps. Robert graduated from Harvard College with highest honors and from Yale Law School. He is also a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Jason Kamras currently serves as the 2005 National Teacher of the Year and teaches 7th and 8th grade math at the John Philip Sousa Middle School – a District of Columbia Public School located in Southeast Washington, DC. Kamras has worked diligently to raise math achievement at Sousa — lobbying his principal to double the instructional time allotted for the subject and redesigning the math curriculum to emphasize the increasing use of technology, meeting all learning styles and putting instruction into a real-world context. The curricular changes, piloted with his own students in 2002, helped the percentage of students scoring “below basic” on the Stanford 9 test to fall from approximately 80 percent to just 40 percent in one year. Additionally, his students have met the school district’s math adequate yearly progress target every year since the No Child Left Behind legislation was implemented. In 1999, Kamras co-founded and has since directed the EXPOSE Program. Through this program, Sousa students learn to use digital cameras as well as image-editing and DVD-creation software to create autobiographical photo-essays about their lives and their communities. Kamras has a Masters in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. from Princeton University. Kamras began his teaching career with Teach for American in 1996.

Amy Wilkins – Prior to joining Education Reform Now as Executive Director, she spent 11 years at the Education Trust, and has spent the past 25 years working to improve the lives of minority and low-income children most specifically in the area of educational opportunities. Education Reform Now is a 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to closing the twin achievement gaps: the gap separating American students from students in other nations and the domestic achievement gap that separates low-income students and students of color from white and more affluent students. Ms. Wilkins started her career at the Children’s Defense Fund where she worked on child care and Head Start issues. As Director of the Education Trusts’ Policy, Governmental Affairs, Research and Communications office, Ms. Wilkins advocated for standards-based K-16 reform. And most recently she engineered the effort to support high-quality pre-kindergarten as Executive Director of the Trust for Early Education (TEE). Her legislative successes include: passage of the Child Care Development Block Grant legislation, which established the first federal child care funding initiative since World War II and key provisions in the Leave No Child Behind Act of 2002 including measures to: hold schools accountable for closing the achievement gap that separates low income and minority students from others, improve teacher quality, and provide parents and other stakeholders with more and better information about student achievement and teacher quality. Ms. Wilkins has also served in media and policy roles at the Democratic National Committee and the White House Office of Media Affairs. She is a native of Washington, D.C. where she lives with her husband and 4-year-old son.

Cynthia G. Brown is Director of Education Policy and served as Director of Renewing our Schools, Securing our Future National Task Force on Public Education, a joint initiative of the Center and the Institute for America’s Future. Cindy has spent over 35 years working in a variety of professional positions addressing high-quality, equitable public education. Prior to joining the Center for American Progress, she was an independent education consultant who advised and wrote for local and state school systems, education associations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and a corporation. From 1986 through September 2001, Brown served as Director of the Resource Center on Educational Equity of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She was appointed by President Carter as the first Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education (1980). Prior to that position, she served as Principal Deputy of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s (HEW) Office for Civil Rights. Subsequent to this government service, she was Co-Director of the nonprofit Equality Center. Before the Carter Administration, she worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, the Children’s Defense Fund, and began her career in the HEW Office for Civil Rights as an investigator. Brown has a Master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a B.A. from Oberlin College. She serves as Chair of both the Institute for Responsive Education and American Youth Policy Forum Boards of Directors and on the Boards of Directors of the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School and the National Association for Teen Fitness and Exercise.