In the works this year are several research projects that will provide a clearer picture of the teacher quality landscape in Chicago Public Schools.

“Chicago has stepped up and said they want to get a handle on these things,” says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Here are snapshots of these studies:

Where are the best teachers?

The Education Trust is collecting school-level data on teacher credentials in three districts—Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee—to determine where those with the best credentials work. Among the information to be collected for every teacher in those districts: number of years experience, scores on ACT tests, level of post-secondary degree and where it was granted, and whether they’ve earned National Board certification.

The goal is to find out whether teaching talent is distributed equitably across the district and whether high-poverty schools have any or enough top notch teachers.

The project will be financed by a $1 million grant over two years from the Joyce Foundation.

What can schools do to keep good teachers?

In 2003, community organizers at ACORN teamed up with a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher to study teacher turnover at 64 elementary schools in five predominantly black and Latino low-income communities—North Lawndale, Englewood, West Englewood, Chicago Lawn and Little Village. Now, the Consortium on Chicago School Research will take that work a step further by conducting a districtwide, school-by-school study of teacher retention.

“We have teacher files for the last eight or nine years,” explains Consortium Director John Easton. “We’ll be able to look at a teacher teaching on a given date and a year later, see if that teacher is still there.”

The Consortium also plans to survey every CPS teacher about supports for new teachers in their schools, how teachers work together and opportunities for professional development.

Students in grades 6 through 12 will be surveyed about how they view their teachers.

The study, also funded by the Joyce Foundation, is slated for release in 2006.

How much money do schools lose when good teachers leave?

High teacher turnover undermines school improvement and student achievement, says Carroll of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank.

To put a price tag on the problem, the commission will track over three years how much is spent to recruit, hire, train, mentor and acclimate teachers in selected schools in Chicago, Milwaukee, North Carolina and New Mexico. The study will compare four schools in each district—two high-performing and two low-performing.

Participating in the Chicago research will be Albert Bertani, former head of CPS professional development.

“We’ve been concerned about student dropout rates, but the hidden problem is teacher dropout,” says Carroll, noting that money saved on lowering turnover can be spent on teacher training.

The study is supported by a $138,000 grant over two years from the Rockefeller Foundation.

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