A new coalition of Memphis religious leaders released a report showing that highly effective teachers have a greater impact on student performance than any other resource in the school system.
Special to the Tri-State Defender
A new coalition of Memphis religious leaders on Tuesday (April 10) released a report showing that highly effective teachers have a greater impact on student performance than any other resource in the school system and are the key to improving student outcomes in Memphis.
|‘Improving effective teaching should be our city’s No. 1 priority,’ said the Rev. Brandon Walker, director of Clergy United for the Memphis Schools. (Courtesy photo)|
The report also cited data from a separate study that found students assigned to an excellent teacher stood to gain as much as a full year’s worth of academic growth, as compared to students assigned to a weak instructor who more likely fell behind in their work.
“Improving effective teaching should be our city’s No. 1 priority,” said the Rev. Brandon Walker, pastor of the New Shelby Missionary Baptist Church and director of Clergy United for the Memphis Schools, composed of nearly 50 pastors and ministry leaders. “Teachers are second only to parents in influencing the lives of our young people.”
Clergy United for the Memphis Schools receives funding from a national consortium of clergy called Shepherding The Next Generation (SNG), which funneled funds to the Memphis group from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. SNG was founded in Tennessee four years ago.
“We need to recognize the importance of our teachers – that they are the key to improving student outcomes,” said Rabbi Micah Greenstein, of Temple Israel. “I strongly believe we need to give our teachers as much support as possible so they can work to continue to improve the academic performance of our children.”
The press conference to release the report is the first of several events that religious leaders are planning this month in support of the Memphis City Schools’ effective teaching work.
Walker noted that a number of local churches are setting aside April 29 as a “Sunday Celebration of Teachers” to honor teachers in their local congregations.
“It’s part of our effort to celebrate teachers in their own communities,” he said.
“We believe that most of our teachers are good to excellent, but until now there has been no way to evaluate them fairly,” said Greenstein, who added that the city’s effective teaching work seeks to establish a more consistent method of evaluating teachers and to support their growth.
The religious leaders noted that many school districts nationwide depend on professional certification, advanced degrees and years of service to determine teacher effectiveness, though these have not proved to be reliable measurements. The group made the point that the Memphis Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, developed with input from city teachers and other community leaders, includes parental feedback and administrator evaluation; measures of teacher content knowledge; and “value-added data,” which measures students’ year-long academic growth.
“Effective teaching takes intellect, considerable skill and extensive training,” said Bartholomew Orr, pastor of Brown Missionary Baptist Church. “Just as we need to recognize our exceptional teachers, we also need to provide professional development and personal support to teachers who are struggling.”
The religious leaders also stressed that good teachers alone cannot improve schools. The Clergy United for the Memphis Schools report shows that a third of all teachers leave the profession within five years, and that the rate of attrition is even higher in schools serving more at-risk children. The report suggests improving compensation for high-performing instructors could be an effective way to counter high attrition rates.
“For achievement to continue to improve in Memphis, teachers will need community support,” said pastor Orr.
“Teaching our children is a calling, and educators play an enormous role in shaping the youngest of our flocks, and it is a reality that teachers complement parents in preparing their children for adulthood,” said Dr. Christopher Davis of the St. Paul Baptist Church and the Memphis Theological Seminary.
“As John said in 3:18, ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,’ And the truth is: We must give this effort more than lip service. We need to take action to support these efforts and to support our teachers,” said Davis.