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AISH Asks: How to Sustain Quality Teaching?

By Daniel Lincoln

Four international experts on effective teaching practice and supervision convened last February during the Academy for International School Heads’ (AISH) 8th annual Oasis Day, held in conjunction with the Association for the Advancement of International Education’s (AAIE) 48th Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
Kim Marshall, Sarah Putnam, James Stronge, and David Toze formed a panel to compare notes, contrast views, and challenge their audience of experienced international school heads.
One international school head in attendance argued that the lack of collective benchmarks on what makes a good teacher is weakening the credibility of the international school system as a whole. In the words of AISH Chief Executive Officer Bambi Betts, “we just cannot seem to create a truly effective, sustainable means of both assuring that quality now, and into the future.”
So how to achieve objectivity here? “We have to know what makes good teaching,” says James Stronge. Dr. Stronge, President of Stronge and Associates Educational Consulting, LLC, explained it thus: “I believe—and we know empirically—that of all school-related factors, teachers have the greatest impact on student success. Ultimately, however, the value and validity of claims that teachers matter most rest on the evidence that supports the claims.”
Regarding value and validity though, Kim Marshall, a principal in Boston public schools for 32 years, publisher of The Marshall Memo, and TIE columnist, had this to say: “I have concluded that the traditional process of teacher evaluation (pre-observation conference, announced full-lesson observation, lengthy write-up, and post observation conference) is inaccurate, ineffective, and dishonest. It is no wonder that research shows that it has virtually no impact on classroom practice.”
Two current, highly experienced international school heads were also on the panel, and added valuable insights to the mix. Sarah Putnam, Head of the International School of Aruba for the past four years, stressed that “a solid supervision model includes performance standards, annual goals for student learning, walkthroughs with feedback, team monitoring, student surveys, and a record of independent professional learning.”
Ms. Putnam also pointed out that “a principal’s primary function is to increase student achievement. Teachers have the greatest impact on student learning, and principals must engage directly with teachers around the realities of the process.”
David Toze, Superintendent of the International School of Manila, offered the following perspective: “there are crucial functions that teacher appraisal must perform. And we cannot let the perfect get in the way of the good. If I break down those functions, I come up with three tasks: coaching, in other words helping make good teachers into better teachers; judging teachers, for the purposes of contract renewal and reference; and feeding back and validating, to inform and support teachers as professionals.”
So how can we advance and sustain quality teaching? Mr. Marshall pointed out that teachers “crave more frequent and authentic feedback and the opportunity to discuss what is working and what is not in their classrooms,” and this, above all, “requires that principals and their colleagues be strong instructional leaders and excellent time managers.”
For his part, Dr. Stronge maintained that the focus must remain the objective measurement of effectiveness (and value added): “the only way I know that schools can improve student achievement is to improve teacher effectiveness. If we can succeed in recruiting, supporting, assessing and keeping capable teachers, we will go a great distance in improving our schools.” l
Learn more about the Academy for International School Heads at

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