On April 30th, 2019, the discussion "Finding Common Ground: Getting What Works Into the Classroom," took place at the Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills, CA. Lowell Milken moderated a distinguinshed panel of education leaders and researchers including National Institute for Excellence in Teaching CEO Dr. Candice McQueen, Vanderbilt University's Dr. Stephen P. Heyneman, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill's Dr. Matthew Springer, National Council on Teacher Quality President Kate Walsh and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Panelists highlighted solutions to scaling up proven practices, centered around educator effectiveness and teacher quality. "The quality of education systems around the world cannot exceed the quality of its educators," said Lowell Milken.
Dr. Matthew Springer advocated for additional strategic pay for our nation's best teachers, citing evidence in his research that retaining highly effective teachers can result in 4-11.5 weeks of additional learning for students per school year. He pointed to places like Tennessee that had successfully used merit pay or differentiated pay for highly effective teachers as showing higher retention of their best educators—which is huge when it could add up to an additional 3 months of school. When asked about the number one way to improve the education system, he suggested placing the most effective teachers in the highest need schools.
As former Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, Dr. Candice McQueen emphasized the direct effect a sustained state-wide effort to provide teachers with professional development lead to its significant gains in student success over the past decade. She suggested that more states should follow this model by investing in teacher training using data-driven strategies, as well as provide differentiated roles within the profession to keep talented teachers in the classroom with more opportunities to increase leadership and compensation.
Another motivation to student learning is student motivation itself, according to Dr. Heyneman. Bringing with him more than 40 years of experience researching international systems in 65 countries, he suggested America should adopt strategies that other European countries have been practicing where teachers must be certified every 3-5 years to keep pace with emerging technologies and pedagogy.
Kate Walsh spoke about the need to embrace research in teacher prep and teach kids reading and math using the strategies that have been proven to work. That we aren't regularly teaching new educators about those strategies is "malpractice," she said. The question underlying the whole discussion was one that plagues many researchers: Why is there such a disconnect between education research and practice?
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten mentioned that unions need a seat at the table, too. Unions, she said, represent teacher agency and voice, and need to be helping craft the decisions that will affect teachers and students. They can play an important role in bridging the gap between research and practice.
The panel concluded with all panelists advocating for an emphasis in legislature and educational practices to support elevating and supporting teachers as one of the most important means of improving student outcomes.
"Educator effectiveness is the single most important in-school factor determining student achievement," said Lowell Milken.