“Recognising, valuing and enhancing the teachers and school leaders with high levels of expertise makes the difference. It’s what works best (Hattie, 2015).”
In Australia, students taught by the highest performing teachers have been found to learn as much in six months as what teachers in lowest performing teachers accomplish in a year (Leigh, 2010).
The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students could be closed in five years by giving all Indigenous Australian students teachers at the top quartile of teacher performance (Leigh, 2010).
School leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to student learning (Leithwood et al., 2004).
To support teachers and leaders, as a country we need to:
While the world’s highest achieving school systems make great teaching a priority, Australia is currently heading in the opposite direction.
“One of the biggest challenges we face in school education is to raise the status of teaching as a career choice, to attract more able-people into teaching and to develop teaching as a knowledge-based profession (Masters, 2015).”
The world’s highest achieving school systems make great teaching a priority, through strategies to develop, reward and retain great teachers and recruit new top talent into teaching (McKinsey & Company, 2010).
Beginning teachers can face ‘transition shock’ upon entering the classroom.
A mismatch between idealistic motivations and daily classroom realities contributes up to 50 per cent of teachers leaving the profession within five years (Gallant & Riley, 2014).
Teachers working in schools serving disadvantaged communities can face additional challenges.
We need to provide early career teachers with training and support to better prepare them to work in these contexts including early exposure to the classroom, tracking and evaluating student progress and teacher-led professional development (SVA, 2014).
Highly effective teaching involves more than subject specialist knowledge and behaviour management skills.
Highly effective teachers differentiate their practice depending on a student’s capability, provide continuous feedback to their students and reflect on their own practice (Productivity Commission, 2012).
When a teacher has high expectations students tend to meet them, just as students of teachers with low expectations tend to conform. This is particularly true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds (Rubie-Davies, 2015).
This trend does not necessarily translate to a high number of teachers applying for school leadership positions (Gronn, 2007).
To turn ambition into reality, young teachers with leadership aspirations need to receive professional development and tailored career counselling that allows them to make a confident move into leadership roles.
A teacher’s progression to school leadership should be supported with preparatory and supportive training.
High performing education systems identify future leaders early in their career so that they can enhance their leadership capabilities through experience in leadership roles and meaningful professional development (McKinsey & Company, 2010).
This article is part of a series related to the SBS documentary Testing Teachers. To find out more about Testing Teachers click here.